What a wonderful coincidence that strawberries are at their best right around fair season. These half-pints are ready for the Western Idaho State Fair next week. The color, texture and flavor are terrific, even if they don't win the blue ribbon.
Here's the simple recipe that comes from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, my bible for putting up jams and preserves.
• 2 quarts strawberries
• 6 cups sugar
1. Wash strawberries, cut off stems and cut up in small pieces.
2. Crush the berries a layer at a time — I use a potato masher. Put on some fun music and really go at it!
3. Combine the strawberries and sugar in a large saucepan.
4. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring until the sugar is fully dissolved.
5. Cook rapidly to the gelling point. Mixture will thicken and it's good to keep stirring so it doesn't stick to your pan.
6. Remove from heat and skim foam that will collect on top. I scoot all the foam to one side of the pan and it's fairly easy to scrape off with a spoon.
7. Have jars prepared in advance. If I am doing a lot of canning, I'll wash the jars in the dishwasher and take them directly out — hot and ready. If I'm doing just a few pints, I'll boil the jars in the same water canner in which I'll be processing the finished jars. Also, I save the water, let it cool and use it in the garden.
8. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.
9. Wipe the jar top so it isn't sticky and makes a good seal with the lid. Adjust rim.
10. Process 15 minutes in a boiling water canner, checking your altitude to see if you need to add time. Here in Boise, Idaho, I add 5 minutes processing time.
As always, when you lift out the jars after processing, be sure to put the jars on a thick towel or hot pads. You want to hear a "ping" as the seal, not a "crack" as they damage your counter!
Happy canning to you!
Dede Ryan began professional life as a journalist on Capitol Hill. She held reporting and editorial positions at U.S. News & World Report and Business Publishers, Inc., for more than a decade and has published hundreds of feature stores, restaurant reviews, essays and one novel. She also has been canning pickles and jams for decades and believes the process is soothing and offers a sense of connection t the earth. Read all of Dede's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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