When including the recipe for strawberry jam in my cookbook, Jam It, Pickle it, Cure It, the publisher requested that I cut the quantity (10 eight-ounce jars) in half. But I stood firm. Strawberry jam is made to be shared—and people love it when you do.
A friend once drove me across town. As a thank-you, I offered her a jar of preserved berries—and right then and there, behind the wheel, she popped the seal and began lapping up its nectar. Another jar went into a basket of fancy holiday eats for relatives across the country, and of the dozen or so items included, this was the Christmas morning, pancake-topping showstopper.
Picking strawberries and turning them into jam is an immensely satisfying process by itself. But sharing the wealth of your efforts year round—handing out stunning jars of jewel-red berries packed with sweet juice and the sweat equity of your own kitchen—will turn you into a rock star in the eyes of friends and family.
Unlike the cooperative apple, the accommodating cranberry, or the boil-it-and-it’s-done plum, the strawberry is a low-pectin fruit, which means that it needs help from the lemon and its seeds to thicken up. My recipe is easy to make, but it’s a slow jam. I’ve found that the extra time is worth it to produce a flavorful finished product with a stunning jewel-like color and an even distribution of berries.
A mammoth stockpot is required for this recipe, as the fruit will create a tremendous amount of foam—about four times the volume of the fruit itself. Trust me, there is nothing worse than scrubbing sticky berry mess out from under the burner.
You’ll need 10 half-pint jars, or their equivalent; make sure they are free of rust and odors and the lids seal tightly. If you are planning on giving these as gifts, make sure you indicate in some manner the contents and date prepared. Here are the ingredients:
Six pints fresh, perfect, sweet strawberries
Nine cups sugar
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about five lemons), rinds (kept whole) and seeds reserved
This will make about 10 (eight-ounce) or 20 (four-ounce) jars, and takes two to three days to complete.
Wash, dry, stem, and slice (or chop) the berries. In a large bowl, toss them gently with the sugar and lemon juice; don’t bruise your fruit. Let them macerate for four to eight hours to release their juice. Tie up the lemon seeds in cheesecloth or an empty tea bag.
Transfer the strawberries and the lemon rinds and seeds to a very large stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for three minutes, then turn the heat to medium and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Skim off the loads and loads of foam that will surface—this is best done with a large metal spoon. Remove as much of the foam as possible, as doing so will give your jam a clear, brilliant color.
Allow the jam to cool in the pot, then transfer to a wide-mouthed bowl or baking dish. Discard the lemon rinds and seeds.
Let the jam sit, uncovered, stirring occasionally, overnight. This will help the jam thicken and keep the fruit from separating from the syrup. If the jam is not to your desired thickness, allow it to sit for one more day.
Transfer the jam to jars, ensuring that the lip and threads of the jars remain clean and unsticky. You can refrigerate strawberry jam for up to four months. Want to can your jam? For that, you’ll have to read my book!