Making Strawberry Jam

032Farm fresh strawberries are finally ready to harvest in Southern Ontario.  With that said, it’s time to make some jam.  But, let’s be honest….it does not qualify as a serving of fruit in your daily diet.  As I remind my kids, now and then on  biscuits, pancakes or toast,  accompanied with peanut butter on some bread, or as a topping on ice cream, strawberry jam is a great addition to a snack or meal.  Not to mention that its flavor is a great reminder of summer when it’s minus 20 degrees in February!

Ingredients

4 quarts strawberries (9 cups crushed berries)

14 cups sugar

2 packages of pectin (57 g /2 oz.)

Yields 16 -250 ml (8.4 oz. or half pint) jars of jam

Note:  Make this jam in two separate batches.

Directions for 8 jars of jam

Fill your canner up with hot water to the height of the jars that you will be using for your jam. It will take a while to get this volume to a boil so you better start now.  If you get ahead of the game, you can always turn it down later.

Fill a medium pot with water and add the seals and screw rings.  Bring this to a gentle bowl.005

Sterilize your jars in the oven at 225 degrees fahrenheit  for 10 minutes.  Continue to keep them warm in the oven until they are needed.

011Wash and remove the hull from 2 quarts of strawberries.012

Mash the berries up in a large bowl.  If you like your jam to be more “chunky”, then decrease the amount of mashing.

Combine mashed berries and pectin in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.

Add all the sugar.  I add 1/3 at a time and stir in order to dissolve all the sugar and not have it stick to the bottom.014

Note:  Make sure you use a LARGE pot to make this jam.  The volume will really INCREASE when the jam begins to boil.  The last thing you are going to want to happen is have this sugary mixture bubble over in the pot and catch FIRE on your burner.  Been there and done that!

Once the sugar is dissolved, return to a hard boil for 1 minute.

Remove from heat. Stir and skim for 5 minutes.  This step is crucial in order to get a foam free jam (skimming part) that doesn’t have the fruit rising to the top of the jar (stirring part).028

020

Pour jam into warm sterilized jars to 1/4″ from rim.021

Wipe the lip of the jar with a wet paper towel in order to ensure that no jam is on the rim of the jar.  This could prevent a good seal from happening.  Cover with sterilized lids and tighten the screw rings.

Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the jars with canning tongs and cool on a rack over night.  Soon you will hear the sound of success as those lids start popping and ensuring a good seal.025

Congratulations!  Try not to eat it all in the next few months.  Save some for the Winter when you will need a few reminders of summer!031

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Saturday Morning Education

Over the past few weekends, both of my kids have had friends sleep over for the night.  For my daughter, it was more of an orchestrated event with a particular movie, snacks and sleeping bags.  For my son, it was just a place for his buddies to crash after a party.

Before going out to the party, my son asked his friends if they wanted to see the chickens.  “You have chickens?” said one of the teenagers, as he gave me “the look”.   If you have backyard chickens, I know you have received “the look”.  It’s similar to a polite smile that screams “This guy is crazy!”

As we entered the coop, I watched their reactions to the chickens.  It’s generally the same for most people : 1 part caution, 1 part fear, 1 part interest.  Maybe it had something to do with me possibly saying something about “attack chickens” that fostered more of the fear part.

For my daughter’s friends, the fear part must have dominated their reactions because nobody even asked to see the chickens.  Not even after I promised fresh eggs for tomorrow’s breakfast.  Maybe they just didn’t care. Maybe the movie JAWS was too captivating. Maybe, they were just being kids.   Anyways, it got me thinking more about our alienation from our food source and the fact that most urban kids (and adults) have very little or no connection with the food that they eat.   I’d bet that most of these young people have never even seen a chicken up close and they have a preconceived notion that chickens are just dirty barn yard animals.  That might explain why the girls had no interest in visiting the hens.

It’s too bad that we’ve created such a disconnect from our food source over the years.  I know it’s easier to just go to the grocery store to buy those eggs, sausages, olives, canned peaches or whatever.  But, with that convenience, comes a lost opportunity to learn, create, share and take pride in your accomplishments. DSCN4970

Camera Shy!

Camera Shy!

So, with that said,  I got up earlier than usual and prepared breakfast for our guests. The menu included “backyard fresh” eggs, homemade potato hash, bacon,  and homemade biscuits with last years’ blueberry and strawberry jam. Everyone got their first taste of “farm fresh” eggs, though I’m not sure if they were really impressed.  Afterall, they are teenagers (or soon to be), who live in the moment, and are more interested in stuff   that I do not understand or no longer hold of value.  But, I  do hope that our brief “lesson”  regarding our food source stays tucked away somewhere in the archives of their brains.

Maybe, when they become men and women, the memory of our breakfast together will come back and they, too, will want to plant a vegetable garden, raise some chickens, or take an interest in making sausage or canning some pears, or…………    “OK Dad…… stop talking so much and pass the potatoes!”