Strawberry Jam

An annual ritual has begun here. It’s a ritual so old and deeply ingrained that I can’t remember a time when I didn’t do it. It began in my childhood and has continued right on through to today. The ritual of preserving the harvest or, as it is better known in the South, “puttin’ up.” This is the ritual of canning or freezing the abundance of fresh produce that comes our way at this time of year.

This is a ritual I began learning at an early age. When I was a child we didn’t have access to anything and everything at the grocery store the way that we do today. If you wanted fresh peas in January, you had better freeze some in July. And freeze produce we did!

I have lots of memories of helping my mother “put up” during summer vacations. I can remember peas and butterbeans spread on newspapers on the floor in our den underneath the window air conditioner. You had to keep them cool, you know, so they wouldn’t “go through a heat.” Let the peas and butterbeans get too warm and they’d sour before you finished shelling. Not good. Shelling was my favorite puttin’ up activity. I think that’s because you could do it indoors under the air conditioner while watching television. I’ve never been much of an outdoorsy girl. Perspiration? Ewww. Which is why I hated helping with the corn.

I remember sitting in our backyard at an old picnic table shucking corn. Corn was always ready for pulling during the hottest part of the summer and shucking it made a huge mess, so you had to do it outdoors. And Mama was very particular about the corn. You had to get every single silk out of that corn. It took a while. And did I mention it was hot out there? Also, mosquitoes. It was enough to make you seriously consider the importance of freezing corn for the coming year.

Even though there were parts I didn’t like, I mostly enjoyed that time of year. It was just a part of the rhythm of life in a small, southern town during the 1960’s. And it didn’t matter whether your family was poor or well-off. Everyone “put up” for the winter. That was just the way it was and we didn’t question it.

And I find that I am, after all, grateful for the lessons I learned on those hot, humid summer days. The importance of preparing for the future, of putting something aside when you have extra for times that are leaner.

Whenever I mention today that I still carry on the “puttin’ up” ritual, people look at me so strangely. Some have even said, “Oh, how quaint.”  Or, “I didn’t know people did that any more.” I even had one person say to me, “Oh, you mean they still make canning jars?” I just laugh with them and go right on about canning.

Some years I do a lot more than others. Jams, preserves, pickles, relishes, salsas. Some years just a few pickles and jams. But, regardless, I almost always start the canning season with Strawberry Jam.

Good old-fashioned (quaint?) Strawberry Jam. One of the first recipes new canners often try because it’s so easy and the odds of messing it up are quite low.

If you’ve never tried canning anything before, please (I’m begging you) educate yourself on the correct procedure before you start. It is imperative to properly sterilize your jars and to use an approved canning recipe. And the technique is critical. Old techniques such as the inversion method (turning the jars upside down to seal rather than processing in a water bath) are no longer used. They’re downright dangerous. And, just because “Mama always did it that way and we never got sick” is NOT justification for using incorrect and outdated canning techniques.

For a beginning canner, if you purchase nothing else, the best money you can invest is in getting a copy of the Ball Blue Book. It’s put out by the people who make Ball canning jars and is considered the “canning bible.” It’s cheap, easy to read and simple to follow. A couple of other good resources are the Ball web site (http://www.freshpreserving.com) and the experts-of-all-experts at the University of Georgia (http://www.uga.edu/nchfp). They know of what they speak. They are home to the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Trust them.

I have lots of canning and preserving books. And I use all of them. Really I do. I might even need one or two more. Maybe. This recipe is from the book Small Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard. It’s a great book with easy to follow recipes. And I like that the recipes are all, well, small batches. Since it’s just the two of us now we don’t really need 16 pints of Strawberry Jam to see us through the year. Just a few half-pints are fine.

4 cups firm strawberries, halved or quartered (depending on size)
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp. butter

For this recipe I purchased two baskets of strawberries. It only takes one basket for the jam, so we had enough left for several strawberry shortcakes.

Mix the berries with the sugar in a non-reactive pan (stainless or enamel), cover, and let them stand for 8 hours. Stir it occasionally just to distribute the sugar through the berries.

After 8 hours, bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Add the lemon juice, return to boiling and allow to boil rapidly for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, add the butter and bring the mixture to a full boil over high heat. The butter, by the way, is simply to prevent the jam from foaming up so much. If you don’t want to add it, you can skip it but you’ll need to skim the foam from the jam while it’s boiling. Much simpler for me to just add that smidgen of butter. Boil rapidly for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Ladle into sterile jars. Wipe the jar rims with a damp paper towel. Apply caps and rings.

Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Remove the jars and place them on a kitchen towel until cooled completely (about 24 hours). Listen for the “music” of the lids pinging. Makes 3 half-pints.

Strawberry Jam
 
Prep time
Cook time
 
Homemade strawberry jam using fresh springtime strawberries.
Serves: 3 half-pints
Ingredients
  • 4 cups firm strawberries, halved or quartered (depending on size)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. butter
Instructions
  1. Mix the berries with the sugar and let stand for 8 hours. Stir occasionally to distribute the sugar through the berries.
  2. Place the berry and sugar mixture in a medium non-reactive pan (stainless steel or enamel) and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  3. Add the lemon juice, return to boiling and allow to boil rapidly for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 24 hours.
  4. After 24 hours, bring the mixture to a full boil over high heat, add butter, and boil rapidly for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
  5. Ladle into sterile jars. Apply caps and rings and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
  6. Makes 3 half-pints.
Notes
The 1 hour total time is hands-on time. There is additional standing/resting time of 36-48 hours as well.

All text and photographs on Never Enough Thyme are copyright protected. Please do not use any material from this site without obtaining prior permission. If you'd like to post this recipe on your site, please create your own original photographs and either re-write the recipe in your own words or link to this post.

Do you “put up?” Would you like to see more canning and preserving recipes on Never Enough Thyme?

Please let me know if you have any questions about proper canning techniques. I’ll try my best to answer them for you.

–Recipe adapted from Small Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard

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Comments

  1. vi says

    hey your shelves look like mine!!! imagine that! hahahahaha
    i don’t have small batch preserving, is it worth getting?
    vi

  2. says

    I really like that book, Vi. It’s all BWB canning recipes and a great resource for me because I don’t really need to do large quantities of those things. You can look at it on amazon.com (follow the link I inserted above) and see the table of contents for the types of recipes it contains.

  3. says

    YUMMY! I’ve never ever “canned” before, but after reading this, I think that i MUST! Although I kinda felt like I already did with you! Such a charming post! Summer is here indeed!

  4. vi says

    i looked at it a couple times but never got it cause i am always putting up huge batches
    maybe i will pick it up though this year. i like the fancy pantry book and the other ones by witty.
    btw, today i am making scalloped tators with the russets i dried at the end of the year

  5. says

    Wow, your jam looks delicious and beautiful! Earlier today I bought my daughter the Ball Blue Book, so I’m glad to have such a glowing endorsement from such an experienced canner:)

  6. says

    Lana…thank you very much for all this passion you put into explaning your wonderful strawberry Jam. We were told this week that our Quebec strawberries will be a week early ;0)))
    Can’t wait for amazing sweetness!
    Thanks for sharing your experience and flavourful wishes,
    Claudia

  7. Teri says

    What a great memory. We never did any canning although some of the neighbors did.
    Your jam looks delicious. I swear I’d weigh over 200 lbs if I cooked like you do.

  8. says

    I would have no trouble whatsoever “putting up” with this wonderful, homemade jam. Homemade peach jam, which I’ll bet you have on your list of future recipes, is my favorite, but strawberry jam is a very close second. Many thanks for sharing your detailed, tried and true approach.

    • says

      Actually, Barbara, I do have a great peach jam recipe that uses just a touch of cardamom. Very subtle and just slightly different from the usual peach jam.

  9. says

    I just “put up” my first canned goods earlier this year. Pickled beets! They were a great success. I feel confident enough to take on this jam recipe. Great instructions, sounds yummy, and wonderful pics!

    • says

      Good for you! Canning is really easy, isn’t it? And the great thing is that you know *exactly* what’s in the jar. No preservatives, no additives, just wholesome food. Just be sure to always follow a tested, approved recipe.

  10. Neena says

    Yours look better than mine. I made sugar free strawberry jam this year. It turned out to be delicious, I like a tart flavor so it’s just to my taste. Beautiful pictures. Good job
    Neena

  11. says

    I loved reading about the memories! Not growing up down here, I didn’t have such experiences, but love reading about yours! I think it is important to carry on traditions, even if they meed to be tweaked with the times.

    This Jam looks fabulously delish. Not sure if I am ready to make my own right now, but in the future is a major possibility! ;)

    • says

      Thanks, Chris! If you’ve never canned before your first time can be a little daunting. The process will go much easier if you read and study it beforehand or watch someone do it a couple of times. Or even do your first canning session alongside an experienced canner.

      Keep watching this summer for more jams, preserves, relishes and pickle canning recipes!

  12. Jessica says

    What a lovely story. Reminded me of so many peas that I shelled, corn that I shucked and helping mom in her garden. Oh if only I could go back…at least for a day!

  13. says

    Wow, your jam looks beautiful!! Is there a reason behind all the inactive time with the maceration and cooking? When I made jam before, it was a much quicker process with very little inactive time involved. Thank you for the process photos btw.

    • says

      Hi Memoria, This is just one of many methods of making strawberry jam. This one doesn’t use any commercial pectin (Sure-Jell, etc.). Using pectin would make it a very quick process. I’m not opposed to pectin at all, I just happen to like this slow method for strawberry jam.

  14. says

    I would love to see more “puttin up” posts! I’m doing my best to eat locally, but our growing season is short in Montana. Canning, freezing and drying will help me stretch my harvest as well as any goodies I might stock up on at the farmer’s market. Great post with beautiful pics!

  15. says

    Lana I love your story behind the jam. Putting up sounds great! Never heard of it being an East Coast girl but I think I was really missing something. I do remember sitting outside and shucking the corn. We always fought over who would do it. The jam looks amazing too. I realy enjoyed this post.

  16. Miss P says

    I remember all of those days of picking, cleaning, shelling, shucking, brining, snapping and everything else. Not only did we learn great survival skills and how to “put up” our favorite foods, we learned how to work. Nowadays, when we sit down to a family gathering and enjoy peas or butterbeans from the summer before, we enjoy the work product along with the taste. I hate to sound 500 years old, but if you never experience the labor that goes into something like this, you just can’t appreciate the love that accompanies somebody putting it on the table for you to enjoy.

    Those look great. I am making mayhaw jelly this week. Yep. Now, that’s a true South Georgia delicacy.

    Miss P

  17. says

    I once used someones recipe for canning pumpkin butter to find out you can not do pumpkin butter in a water bath. I threw it all away. :( Now I know better and I’m pretty careful but I love to “put up”!
    That almost sounds dirty. LOL
    I need to get that small batch cookbook!

  18. Tarona McKee says

    You have the most beautiful photos to go along with your recipes. Please consider other canning recipes. I come from a long line
    of canners and my favorite memory is of stringing halfrunners and I loved to stir the cucumbers in the crock for lime pickles.
    Unfortunately, canning never “took” for me but now it seems a tragedy that I only have one cousin who still does it. (And I LOVE
    her in the winter)! I’m going to make some of your jam this weekend. It’s hard to go wrong with strawberries, and with your
    gorgeous pics as inspiration, my kitchen should smell great and be extra sticky.

    Thanks for taking the time to share with us. It was a good day when I found your site.

  19. Laurrie says

    Hi there…I’m so glad to have access to this site. What a wonderful blog and I appreciate the step-by-step because I don’t have the first clue when it comes to canning! Thanks for putting this on AllRecipes, if you didn’t know, I’m witchywoman over there!!

    • says

      Hi Laurrie and welcome! Canning is easy you just have to be sure to follow the proper sterile procedures so that your foods are safe and shelf-stable. I’ll be posting more canning and preserving recipes as the summer progresses so keep a look out for them!

  20. says

    Always a pleasure to find other folks who ‘put by’ seasonal bounty. My story differs quite a bit from yours: I never grew up with canning/preserving. My parents cannot understand where I came from. LOL. Truth is, I learned from various roommates and friends over the years and now, with a local farm share, I have learned to put away whatever we don’t eat immediately for winter.

    Early spring is the hardest time of the year–when most of what we preserved last year is gone, and it’s not quite time for anything fresh. But I have 3 half-pints of strawberry preserves cooling on the counter and another batch of strawberries in the fridge. Yum!

  21. Miss P says

    Just finished my second batch of mayhaw jelly. I feel so proud of myself. It looks great! I love listening to the “pop” when the jars seal!

    Have a great weekend.

    Miss P

  22. says

    Hi Lana!

    I’m sorry I read this post so late! I came by from a link on your salsa page.
    I made some marmalade for the very first time a few months back, which turned out great! I’d love to try this recipe of yours, now. And peach with cardamom sounds LOVELY! Could you please put that up someday too?

    One question – I’m wondering what makes your strawberry jam ‘gel’? I used commercial pectin in my marmalade. But I don’t see any pectin here, and strawberry doesn’t have seeds or rind that natural pectin comes from, right?

    • says

      Hi Debs – This recipe does yield a softset jam. If you want a firmer set you can achieve that naturally by including about half the volume in underripe fruit. There is more pectin present in underripe fruit and it will aid in creating a firmer set. Also, jam sometimes takes a while to set up. Allow it to sit for up to six weeks for the maximum amount of setting to occur. You can always use some sure-jel if you want but we prefer the softset of this jam. And, don’t worry, if it doesn’t become as firm as you’d like you can just call it strawberry syrup and use it on your pancakes :-)

  23. says

    I love this post and your blog. I was writing a post today about strawberry jam and I found yours when I googled to find a picture. I hope you don’t mind, I borrowed two of yours for my post and credited you with links back to your blog. Please let me know if this is not okay. I hope the attribution will send you some new followers. I will certainly be back!

    Thank you! Olivia

  24. says

    This is what I came to find… a simple recipe for strawberry jam.The markets in my part of the world are flooded with strawberries now, I’ll get back to you after I make my batch..:-)

  25. says

    Hmm, I think your way might be easier than the one my MIL just taught me last week. We’ve got loads of jam hanging around now, though, and I’m pretty excited about it! YUM!

  26. Emma says

    I think this is a lot like the jam my Mom used to make, but I don’t remember letting it “stand” . It makes sense to me that this would help the favors develop more intensely. I’m thinking that the 8-hour and 24-hour stand times are not in the refrigerator, since you didn’t mention any refrigeration in the recipe… So no refrigeration during the “standing” periods, right?

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