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Jam 101: Get Your Jam On

Making homemade jam is my jam.

Yesterday I noticed what were once small little green buds on the strawberry plants in my garden are now red, ripe, juicy sweet strawberries.  Living in the Pacific Northwest, I’m all too familiar with the fact that Summer, although beautiful, is short.  To preserve the flavors of the season I love making homemade jam.  When Summer is a distant memory, I can spread strawberry jam on toast or use raspberry jam to make a pork marinade and still get a taste of Summer.

Why should YOU make homemade jam? 

3 Reasons:

1. You, most likely, have all the necessary equipment already, so why not?

2. It’s easy.  Really.  I promise.  If you can bring something to a simmer, and if you can boil water and fill jars, you can make jam.  There's even a way to make jam that doesn't require ANY cooking at all!

3. Homemade jam makes a great hostess gift, is delicious on toast, elevates ice cream sundaes and is jam packed with way more flavor than store bought jam.

Here are the steps to making jam, plus one of my favorite jam recipes:

1.   Sterilize your jam jars.  I like to put all the jam jars and their lids in the dishwasher to ensure they are sterile before using them.  You can find jam jars at big box stores, local grocery stores, flea markets, and dollar stores.  When they’re not filled with homemade jam, they make great containers for salad dressing, fill them with fresh flowers, or use them as utensil holders for your next summer party.

2.   Once the jars are sterilized, fill them with the homemade jam until the jam is about 1 inch below the top.  Don’t fill them all the way to the top.  Screw on the lids until they are secure but not tight.  Heat will cause the jam to expand and if the lids are too tight, the jar might crack.

3.   Put a large wide pot on the stove, and place a kitchen towel on the bottom.  This will help keep the jars in place.  Fill the pot with about 5” of water and bring to a simmer.

4.   Once the water is simmering, using jar tongs (easy to find and not expensive) carefully lower the jars into the pot.  The jars should not touch.  Space them about 1” apart.  The simmering water should completely cover the jars, including the lid.  I like to have a kettle, on standby, filled with more simmering water in case I need to add more water to cover the jars.

5.   Simmer the jars for anywhere from 10-20 minutes, depending on the recipe.

6.   Using the jar tongs carefully remove the jars, set them aside to cool completely.

7.   Once the jars are cool, tighten the lid, label and store in a cool dark place.  Jam will keep for up to 1 year.

But wait……….

There’s another way to make jam!

 

If you just want to make a couple of jars, and don’t need the jam to last more than a couple of weeks you can skip the canning process altogether.

 

Yep, that’s right!

 

You will still need to sterilize the jar (or jars), but you don’t need to go past Step 2.

Make the jam.  Fill the jars.  Refrigerate.

How easy is that?

If you want to avoid cooking anything at all, then freezer jam is perfect for you.  Here is an easy freezer jam recipe that you can alter depending on what fruit is in season.   

6 cups (heaping) of your favorite fresh berries

1 1/2-2 cups sugar – if you like your jam extra sweet, go ahead and make it 2 cups of sugar

6 TB instant Clear Gel- 1 TB per cup of berries {available through King Arthur Flour}

1 TB pure lemon juice

(8 oz) half pint *freezer safe* mason jars or 6 (8oz) mini mason jars, sterilized

Place berries in a large bowl or pot and mash away with a potato masher.  Mash until you get the consistency you like --- less mashing for bigger bits of fruit, and more mashing if you prefer your jam on the smoother side.

In a small bowl, mix sugar and clear gel together.  Since you won't be cooking this jam, it is important to use the clear gel to get the firm jam consistency, otherwise, you will have fruit soup, which is delicious, but not what we're going for here.

Add sugar gel mixture to berries and lemon juice and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved.

Let sit for about 15 minutes.

Take 1-2 cups (depending on the mason jar you use) and scoop into the jars, seal and freeze.

For more ideas on how to use Summer fruit keep scrolling to the bottom of this page and check out our Featured Ingredients for June.

When you cook one of our menus or recipes, don’t forget to tag your photos #amenuforyou and post to Facebook or Instagram.  We always love seeing what’s cooking in your kitchen!

Happy Cooking and Happy Jamming!

Lisa and Donna

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