I made strawberry jam this week. I picked the berries, found the recipe and jammed 'em up all by myself. This was my first foray into home canning without the supervision of my mother. Joining in the long tradition of preserving the flavors of the seasons I felt my mom, grandmothers and great grandmothers smiling on me.
If you're looking for a recipe, look no further than the inside of a box of Sure Jell. This is a pectin product produced by Kraft that allows for shorter cooking time. The website provided this interesting information about the history and uses of pectin:
Pectin was originally discovered in 1825, by a French chemist named Henri Braconnot.
It is a natural carbohydrate extracted from the inner peel of many fruits. The amount of pectin varies in different fruits, in varieties of fruit, from season to season, and in progressive stages of ripeness. More pectin is present in fruit before it is fully ripe.
Pectin functions to thicken and gel jams, jellies, relishes, butters, conserves and marmalades. Commercial pectin is used to enhance the level of naturally occurring pectin in fruit, enabling jams and jellies to "set" after shorter cooking time; it provides higher recipe yield and more true fruit flavor than previous, long-boiled method.
I bought the Sure Jell for less sugar recipes in the pink box. Six cups of chopped strawberries and 4 cups of sugar yielded a dozen cute little jars of sweet spring strawberry jam. I also added the zest and juice of one lemon, which gave it a nice little zing.
Not able to leave well enough alone, I did some experimenting with added flavors. I made 4 jars of plain strawberry, I added a sprig of fresh mint to 4 jars, and I stirred the seeds from half a vanilla bean into the remaining jam. The whole process was not only easy and quick, but very satisfying. Everything was canned and cleaned up in about 45 minutes. I still haven't put all the jars away on a shelf because it's so nice to see them all lined up on the counter top.
We had a taste testing at breakfast yesterday. We liked all three flavors. The mint is refreshing, the vanilla is subtle and feels rich, and of course there's nothing wrong with plain home made strawberry jam.