I had the best of intentions. When I signed up to learn to make jam for one of my Get It Done posts, it was winter and I figured I would get to pick some fresh strawberries in June, whip up some jam and have my post ready weeks in advance.
Ha. Am I the only one who THINKS I can do more than I actually can do? Good – I would hate to be alone in possessing that trait.
I am pretty sure this post will hit the web before the digital ink is dry, because I procrastinated until the last. possible. moment. I bought the strawberries today. From the store. But, hey, at least I am going to get myself to cross this item off my list. And yay for that – Get. It. Done. Luckily, I found some nicely ripened strawberries at the store.
I looked in my trusty Plan To Eat recipe book and found that I had two strawberry jams saved to try. One looked embarrassingly easy, so I figured I would try that first.
You can find the original recipe at Whole Living for Easy Strawberry Jam. How much easier can you get? One pound strawberries and 1/2 cup sugar. I like the lower sugar amount than most other jams. And, it stores in the refrigerator, so no canning! Whew – good one to start with. Full disclosure: I used raw sugar.
Everything went together well, and the mixture was tasty (yes, I tasted it while it was hot – what can I say, some was stuck on the spoon) and beautiful in the jar. I let it completely cool, then popped it into the refrigerator over night. It was pretty soft when I put it in the refrigerator, and I was not sure if it would thicken up enough once it had cooled, but as I learned from Food in Jars, then you can just call it Strawberry Sauce and put it on ice cream and waffles!
Not coincidentally, my next recipe was from Food in Jars – Strawberry Vanilla Jam. I just could not resist. I mean, have you ever split open a vanilla bean? If not- take my word for it- you MUST do it as soon as possible. The smell is intoxicating. I mixed up the strawberries, sugar (regular granulated this time) and the split vanilla beans and seeds. The mixture looked and smelled so heavenly, I almost just ate it right then. But, I was on a mission, so I let it sit the minimum 2 plus hours (I can only imagine the delightfulness that a full 72 hour maceration could create) and got started.
I was sort of hoping that this jam would not turn out just because it would be such as awesome sauce! But, all appeared to go as planned and this batch I canned for later (as per the directions), saving just a small bit to taste text the next morning. Nothing makes me happier that homemade canned goodness in the pantry!
Fair warning: this recipe was MUCH more involved. I never did quite get to 220 degrees, but I just could not wait any longer and stopped at 218.5 degrees. My hubby and I tried some while it was cooling – and ohmygoodness, it was delicious! Hubby pointed out it was hot (useful), but it was still really, really good. I was excited to try it the next morning when it had cooled completely.
There were some obstacles in the process – namely my two youngest fighting, and therefore getting put to bed, and my Border Collie speed bump in the middle of my work area:
The next morning, I made a plain bagel, so I could really taste each jam. I put each jam onto one half of the bagel and struggled through the torment of a taste test. It is a tough life, I know.
The first jam (Easy Strawberry Jam – on the left) was more on the sauce side than the jam side, but was very good and fresh tasting. I am not sure if it would have been thicker if I had used regular sugar instead of the raw. But, hey, when life hands you sauce – make waffles to pour the sauce over.
The second jam (Strawberry Vanilla Jam – on the right) was even more delicious the next day. It had set beautifully and looks just lovely flecked with the vanilla bean seeds. The taste of lemon was quite prominent in my batch, but I really liked it. Luckily, all three of my jars sealed up just beautifully, so I have some in the pantry to enjoy over the winter.
What did I learn? Even though I understand that making jam can be a temperamental process, if the worst that happens is you have a delicious sauce, I am not sure why I waited so long to give it a shot. The recipes were just like any other recipe – give it a shot, follow the steps and hope for the best. I think it was a good thing that both recipes were small batch recipes – that way I did not risk an entire morning of picking a huge amount of fruit only to end up with a recipe that either did not work or that I did not like. Stuff like that really gets my goat.
Interestingly enough, I did not try a recipe with pectin as an ingredient. This was not on purpose, I just happened to have saved these two recipes to try. So next time I venture to make jam, maybe I will broaden my horizons and try something with pectin. All I know is that I have finally taken the first step in making jam. And it was doable. For years now, I have pined for a delicious Peach Melba Jam that was a limited edition Minnesota State Fair Winner made by Gedney. Boo for limited edition amazing jams being limited.
Maybe I will just have to perfect my own Peach Melba someday. Peaches, raspberries – yum!
Have you made jam? Any good recipes to share?
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