No-Canning Strawberry Jam

I bought some strawberries at the farmers market over the weekend, and they are wonderfully fragrant and flavorful, but mostly a little lacking in sweetness. (It's early in the season yet, so it may just be a timing thing). And since we're out of strawberry jam, which is the family's favorite, I'm making a batch this morning.



If you've never made jam before, much like cooking in general, it's a thing you have to do by feel. A good recipe is a guideline, but fruit varies from growing season to growing season, or even harvest to harvest, such that one week, it might be sweet and juicy, the next week more tart and dry, or sweet and dry, tart and juicy... You have to adapt your basic recipe to suit the quality of the particular harvest you have on hand. 


And unless you plan to store your jam for a long time, you don't need to go through traditional canning procedures (which were developed for the purpose of long, unrefrigerated storage over seasons). This jam keeps fine in the fridge for at least 6 to 8 weeks, and you can put it in any clean, dry and tight lidded container, glass or plastic. 

Today, since I'm working with fairly flavorful, fragrant and juicy, but not very sweet berries, I took all the least appetizing berries from the bunch as well as all the ones that were starting to overripen and then a few more to make up the rest to make my jam. I always like to save the best fruit for eating plain.

No-Canning Strawberry Jam

Makes about 1 pint
Time: About 75 minutes, most of it inactive.

- 2.25 pounds (mostly medium sized) strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered depending on size (about 5 cups)
- 1+1/4 cup of sugar to start
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- a tiny pinch of salt (as with most sweet recipes, this little bit of salt deepens and rounds out the flavors and does not impart a noticeably salty flavor)
- 1 Tablespoons water

1) Put all the ingredients into a pot, stir to distribute the ingredients, and put the pot, uncovered on medium low heat until all the sugar melts and the mixture just starts to bubble. (Usually takes just under 10 minutes for me.) 





2) Turn the heat down to low and simmer, uncovered, for another hour or so, stirring occasionally. If you can scrape fruit solids off the surface of the pot, your heat's too high. It's better to err on the side of lower heat and longer cook time than to cook the fruit to the point that it begins to stick to the bottom of the pot. Just a little of that mild burn can alter the whole batch in a way you might not like so much.


3) About halfway through the simmer, take a potato masher or a fork and mash the berries to release some more of their natural pectin and to get the jam to the consistency you like. If you like more whole fruit, less mashing, but give it a few good mashes just to aid the natural thickening.




4) Check the sweetness 10 minutes before the jam is done to adjust and add more sugar if needed.

Because I like my jam texture something like a thick compote (it's more versatile that way - I can eat it over ice cream, or with yogurt), I don't add pectin or gelatin, and I stop the cooking when the jam has the texture of a thick stew. When it cools, it'll thicken even more, but it won't be that solid gel texture of a storebought jam.

Just berries, some sugar, a little bit of lemon juice, and a little pinch of salt to get that unadulterated, concentrated, and delicious strawberry flavor.




Totally worth a try next time you see some berries on sale.


Enjoy. :)


shinae


P.S. An occasional jam (or tomato sauce) making session is a GREAT way to polish the insides of your stainless cookware.

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