Monday, July 20, 2015

Homemade Fresh Strawberry Jam, Strawberry Shortcake, and Crepes- Oh My!

I'm a big, big fan of fresh strawberries. I buy strawberries at the store just about every week, as long as they're looking good, but there's nothing like local, fresh picked strawberries. Sometimes, I stop at the farm stand on my way home to pick them up, but this year, we decided to go strawberry picking, with the goal of making jam among other things. We knew we'd need a lot of berries, and even though the woman running the farm said they'd been a bit picked over, we had no trouble picking tons of beautiful, ruby red strawberries in just a little time (which was good, since it was a pretty hot day!)





If we're being honest, and do I try to make that happen here, I definitely started eating the strawberries on the way home.

We were having our parents over for dinner that night, so I baked up some sweet biscuits for strawberry shortcake, which turned out to be amazing. I used this recipe, and loved the cakey texture and touch of sweetness, which was perfect for shortcake. I cut up some strawberries and macerated them in sugar (let them hang out) for a little bit in the fridge, and once I spooned them over the biscuits, I topped it all with some whipped cream. You could always make your own whipped cream, too, but I opted for a shortcut.





That weekend, I was still dreaming of strawberries, and decided to make crepes for breakfast. I used this recipe, but added just a bit of sugar, and a dash of both vanilla and almond extract. I love those flavors together, and the sweetness they add. I filled and topped the crepes with a few spoonfuls of strawberries- let me tell you, they were heavenly. You could also add some maple syrup, but I didn't think it was needed since the berries were already so sweet. Oh my goodness. So yummy! I've also made this crepe recipe since then, and have added a tablespoon or two of ground flax to the batter, too, for a little healthy extra.


We chose a rainy day as jam-making day. This was a great way to spend a cool wet day, for sure! We followed this recipe, and it worked so well for us.



We used 8 ounce quilted mason jars, mostly because we had picked up a case of them on sale, and so we had them on hand already. Also, they're cute, so there's that.

First things first, make sure your jars are clean and lids and rings are clean and dry. Also, you'll need a pot that's big enough to boil all of the jars, both before filling and after. It's best to try out the pot before you add and boil water, to make sure all of your jars fit on the bottom. You can buy a rack to pull the jars all out at the same time, but we decided not to, and using tongs worked out just fine.


We also purchased the Ball canning utensil set, which included jar tongs, a magnet wand, a headspace measuring tool/edger, and a funnel. You can get this kit at hardware stores or other places where jars and canning supplies are sold.

Before beginning, it's helpful to determine how many cups of fresh strawberries you'll need, to end up with the correct amount of mashed strawberries that the recipe calls for. We did a little strawberry math for you to make this easier:

Every 1 cup of whole will end up to be 2/3 cup mashed. You need 5 cups of mashed strawberries for this recipe, so you want to start with about 7 and 2/3 cups of whole berries. Don't hold us to that precisely, it's just a guide to help!



Another thing you'll want to do before getting started is wash and hull the strawberries, and cut them up a bit. We cut them into 1 inch pieces, or so.


Next, mash the strawberries (we used a potato masher, and it worked just fine).


Place your clean jars (no lids) in the bottom of a large pasta pot, cover with water, and simmer. Simmer your lids and bands in a separate pot.


Add the lemon juice (4 tablespoons) and powdered pectin (1 packet) and stir until combined.



Then pour the mixture into a pot. Bring the berries to a strong boil.



Measure out 7 cups of sugar into a bowl, and then add all of it at once. Return the mixture to a hard boil, timing it for 1 minute and 15 seconds from the time it begins to really boil.



Skim any pink foam off of the top. You can definitely reserve this in a heat-safe glass bowl, since it tastes delicious, just clouds your jam, and never really sets to jam consistency. We used this on ice cream and pancakes, and it was just as yummy as the end product!


Remove one jar from the simmering water with tongs, and tip it to empty the water back into the pot. Set it on a heat-safe surface (we used cutting boards and silicone trivets).

Use a funnel to fill the jar, being mindful of stirring your jam first to get both the berries and the liquid. Fill the jars so they have about 1/4 inch of space at the top, and run a butter knife or the canning kit tool around the edge of the jar to get rid of any air bubbles.

You'll also want to have a damp cloth handy to wipe down the rims of the jars before putting the lids on.  Pleas excuse the mess in the background.  This was kind of a fast moving project!



Take a lid out of the simmering water- we used the magnet wand that came in the kit- and place it on top of the jar. Then screw on a band, but don't tighten it all the way. Set it down on a heat-safe surface until all of the jars are filled and ready.


When they're all set, put them back into the boiling water, cover, and boil for 10-12 minutes. Next, turn off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes.


Take all of the jars out of the water, and transfer back to a heat-safe surface where they can hang out for the next 24 hours, without being moved. After 24 hours have passed, check that the center lid has sealed tightly on each jar. If one isn't sealed, store it in the fridge. Otherwise, they should be good to go!


A few things to remember:
-Jars must be sterilized before using for canning, and lids should be new. Everything touching the jars- tongs, cloth, surfaces, should all be clean as well.

-There are lots of great resources out there for safe canning, and it was helpful to do some reading, since we were new to this process.

-Setting up our "zones" ahead of time was a big time and headache saver. You'll need a place to set the jars down and fill them/wipe them down, a place to set filled jars while you fill the others, and a place to set finished jars once you're finished- this spot needs to be out of the way, as they have to rest for 24 hours. Using silicone trivets, kitchen towels, and heat safe cutting boards was the way to go for us.

-Laying down some paper towels under your path from the jam pot to the jars is necessary, at least if you're me. I found that the ladle dripped a bit, and not having to worry about it dripping down between the stove and cabinets, etc. was very helpful in staying focused (this is important, since you're holding boiling liquid!)



Our jam turned out with a beautiful ruby red color and bright, fresh taste. You better believe I'm finding all kinds of things to spread it on and pair it with. We will definitely make this again! For beginner canners, we didn't find it too difficult, and the result is so, so worth it!


Have you ever made jam, or canned anything? What's your favorite fruit to use? Any super helpful tips that I've missed? I'd love to hear them!

4 comments :

  1. I am strawberry obsessed at the moment and this looks sooooooo good!

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    1. Kristy, it IS so good! It's the best strawberry jam I've ever had, no exaggeration. I am eating this stuff on EVERYTHING right now! :)

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  2. You're crepes look delicious! Beautiful blog post today .

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Patrice! And thanks for stopping by my blog! :) Happy Summer!

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