Just when I think spring is finally here, Utah gets hit with yet another storm. It’s mid May and we’re still getting hit with less than awesome rain mixed with snow days. I go to bed at night and dream of riding bikes in nothing but a long sleeve t-shirt, playing in the park, and planting seeds in what will turn out to be an overly abundant garden. But then I wake up and remember I live in Utah. In the mountains no less and the reality of snow in May hits me all to quickly.
Instead of wallowing about the weather, I’ve snuck in the odd powder day and I constantly remind myself that in a short time while the rest of the country is hot and sweating like no ones business, I’ll be sitting on my porch soaking in the beautiful breeze and sunny evenings that the mountains is so good at offering up. If spring won’t come to me then I’ll pretend by bringing spring to my kitchen!
A few weeks ago, Whole Foods had a one day special on organic strawberries. Quarts of giant, sweet, luscious strawberries for just under $2. I went a little crazy. I think I ended up buying eight or nine packages. I wash the berries and pop them in the freezer to use for smoothies, future baking and my favorite: homemade strawberry jam. I started canning a few years ago and have become just short of obsessed with it. I love taking fresh ingredients at their peak, preserving them, and then enjoying them throughout the year. If you’re new to canning, jam is a great place to start. It’s not complicated and you get a big return for your efforts! Typically jam recipes are made by either cooking down the fruit until its own pectin releases to thicken the jam or by using a commercial pectin mix that requires an exact amount of sugar to make it react and thicken the fruit. While both ways are certainly tasty, I get impatient cooking the fruit for what seems like days and the amount of sugar the store bought pectin requires is excessivly high.
Last summer I discovered what I consider to be the perfect solution: Pomona’s Universal Pectin. It’s a natural pectin derived from citrus rinds. Because it’s activated by calcium rather than sugar, you can not only control the amount of sweetener you use, but choose the sweetener of your choice. I have used agave nectar, sugar and honey. And while I have been happy with all the results, I really loved the mild distinctive taste of honey paired with the strawberries. This jam was my first batch of canning for the 2011 year. I couldn’t help but smile at the irony last week as I ate a peanut butter and fresh strawberry jam sandwich in the car while driving to Snowbird for a day of spring skiing. Gotta love Utah!
Recipe adapted from Canning For a New Generation by Liana Krissoff
A recipe for honey sweetened strawberry jam using a natural pectin product, Pomona's Universal Pectin
- 1 cup honey
- 4 teaspoons Pomona's Universal Pectin Powder
- 8 cups washed, hulled and crushed strawberries
- 3 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
- 4 teaspoons calcium solution (included in the box of pectin)
- Fill a canning pot and a smaller pan with water and bring both to a boil. (This is a good time to sterilize the jars.) Turn heat down to medium and keep sterilized jars hot in the canning pot while keeping the sterilized flat parts of lids in the smaller pan while you prepare jam.
- In a wide 8-quart preserving pan (stainless steal or copper pot), combine the crushed strawberries with honey, lemon juice, lemon zest, pectin powder, and calcium solution. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir 1-2 minutes until honey is dissolved. Remove from heat.
- Carefully remove the sterilized jars from the canning pot, pouring the water from each jar back into the pot, and place them upright on the kitchen towel you have laid close to you.
- Turn the heat back to high on the canning pot and bring the water back to a rapid boil. Ladle the jam into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top.
- Using a wooden spoon or plastic knife, run along the side of the jar a few times to pop any air bubbles that may be trapped.
- Use the damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars clean. Place a flat lid on each of the jars and also a ring. Adjust the ring so that it's just finger tight. Return the jars to the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least one inch. Bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes to process. Remove the jars to the folded towel and do not disturb for at least 12 hours. After 1 hour, check to see that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if the top can be pushed down, it hasn't sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately and used within 2 weeks. If you can't push down, then congratulations, you have successfully canned strawberry jam! Store in dark cool place like a pantry or cupboard out of direct heat or sunlight. Jam will keep up to a year but I doubt it will make it that long!
Make sure you have a canning pot large enough to hold all 8 jars, without touching, and will cover jars by at least 2 inches. Wash and sterilize 8 half-pint glass jars. (You don't need to sterilize jars if you're processing over 10 minutes but I do anyway. Better safe than sorry.) For detailed instructions, go here Clear a space on the counter that you can put the jars when they're done so that won't be disturbed. Lay out a clean dish towel. Things you'll want to make sure you have near by: a jar lifter or tongs with rubber bands wrapped around the ends for placing and lifting jars in boiling water, a small saucepan to keep flat parts of lids warm (make sure they are new and clean!), a ladle or the like for filling jam into the jars, a wooden spoon or plastic knife for removing air bubbles, a wet paper towel for wiping the rims of jar. To crush the strawberries, you have a few choices. You can mash them with a potato masher, get in there with your hands, or the easiest, use a food processor. You want to make sure fruit is crushed rather than diced. The fruit will float to the top and make an inconsistent jam. I sterilize my jars just before I start the jam. I use the same water I boiled to sterilize the jars to process the jam.