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Spring and summer bring beautiful ripe, juicy berries that most of us can eat by the handful. Sadly, every year that season ends and I’m left waiting for the spring again. While it’s a nice time to celebrate winter bounty, when that mid December craving for strawberries hit, I’m always glad to have a nice jar of homemade strawberry jam in the cupboard.
All the sweetness of strawberries get packed into a gooey, spreadable condiment that can go far beyond the traditional pb&j (although that’s never a bad choice either!). Making a batch is easier than you might think, and I’m excited to share a simple but delicious recipe for you to give a try.
One of the best parts about making jam is that it can consist of only a few simple ingredients. This particular recipe has only 3: Strawberries, sugar, and pectin.
Do I have to use pectin?
Here’s the deal, a lot of recipes out there boast ‘no pectin, no preservative’ as a selling point, and it’s true! Pectin is not necessarily needed and jams can be delicious without it, so if buying the inexpensive extra ingredient turns you off, I’m sorry.
BUT I think there’s a lot of misconception about what pectin exactly is, why it should and can be used, and when.
While I could go into much more detail here’s the basics, pectin is a naturally occurring carbohydrate in fruits that causes liquids to set and thicken when combined with sugar and acid. It is not a preservative. Any preserving of the fruits is done with sugar and proper sealing methods.
A lot of fruits have plenty of pectin and can thicken into a jam with just the addition of sugar. But some fruits are low in them, and to reach a jam state require a LOT of sugar and a LONG time cooking. It also yields a lot less jam for the amount of fruit used.
Strawberries are one of those. The addition of commercial pectin means a quicker cook time, larger yield, and better preservation of the natural strawberry flavor that would be smothered by sugar and long cooking otherwise.
What kind of pectin?
There are several different types of pectin available, and each require a slightly different application. For as long as I can remember, my mom has been making jams and jellies with traditional dry pectin.
That’s what we used in this recipe, and it works easily. If however you’re concerned about sugar, I recommend using the low sugar dry pectin. You can significantly reduce the sugar required to make this jam. Just follow the directions provided with the pectin to determine how much sugar is required for 5 cups of strawberry pulp.
I don’t recommend commercial liquid pectin or no sugar pectin.
Want to make your own pectin? Learn how here.
Making Homemade Strawberry Jam
Making your very own homemade strawberry jam is as simple as the ingredients! Once you start, you’ll never go back to the gloopy store stuff again.
Cook Strawberries and pectin
To begin, pulverize 2.5 to 3 pounds of strawberries, or enough to yield 5 cups of strawberry pulp. The key to jam is using crushed or finely chopped fruit. I find the blender the best tool for this job. If using frozen berries, thaw first.
Next, add pectin and strawberry juice to a large, non reactive pot and bring to a rolling boil.
Prep Storage Containers
While this is coming to a boil, prep four 16 ounce mason jars (pint) for storage. I recommend water bath canning for shelf storage, but they can also be stored in the fridge for 1 month or in the freezer for up to 1 year.
Either way, make sure your jars and lids are cleaned thoroughly with soapy water. Use only unused seals!
If you intend on water bath canning, I HIGHLY suggest you get a canning tool set, it’s inexpensive, and will have all the tools you need to get your jars processed correctly. At the very least wide mouth funnel, ladle, and clamp to lift the jars into and out of the water are essential. I usually set this all up on a clean kitchen towel to avoid sticky messes on the counter.
If water bath canning, bring a large pot full of water to a boil. You need enough water to cover the jars by 1 inch. Your jars will also need to be warm when you add the jam to them. I find this easiest by simply placing them in the boiling water for a minute and then turning upside down onto a towel to dry.
Add Sugar and Boil
When your strawberry pectin mixture has come to a rolling boil, add in your sugar all at once and stir. Continue stirring and return the mixture to a rolling boil. Once boiling, start your timer. For perfect set jam, cook for 4 minutes.
At the 4 minute mark, remove from heat immediately. Cooking longer will result in over gelled jam, so cook for 3 minutes if you prefer a looser jam.
Add to Jars
While hot, use a wide mouthed funnel and a ladle to fill jars. If freezing leave at least 1 inch of head space to allow for expansion. Leave 1/4 inch of head space for water bath canning.
For freezing allow to cool on the counter first and then add to freezer.
For water bath canning, wipe the rim carefully to make sure there is no jam interfering with the seal. Ensure there are no air bubbles (use a stirring stick) and place on new seals. Seal jar (be careful the jar will be hot!) finger tight and submerge in pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove place on a towel to seal. This can take hours, so don’t panic if it doesn’t happen right away! You’ll know they’re sealed when the lid doesn’t move when pressed upon and there is a small indent in the center.
That’s it! Homemade Strawberry Jam is done!
You’ve done it! Simple right? You now have jars of preserved strawberry goodness. Those sealed jars will stay good in a dark cupboard for up to 1 year (same for a freezer), and 1 month once opened in the fridge. I’ll admit I’ll keep them up to 2 and have never had any consequences from it.
The flavor of homemade strawberry jam is truly incomparable to the store bought versions most people eat. While there are some really nice artisan products out there now, the cost of those can easily buy you the ingredients to make your own and yield way more product.
Using Strawberry Jam
You seriously cannot go wrong with a classic PB&J, especially if you make your own Homemade Nut Butter, but that doesn’t have to be the end of your jam use!
It also makes an excellent filling for cookie sandwiches, like Shortbread Cookies, or as a filling for cupcakes, layer cakes, the bottom of tarts, or as a fun topping for ice creams, short breads, or pavlovas. Get creative and have fun! If it would taste good with a strawberry sauce or fresh strawberries, try substituting jam!
However you like to use your jam, I hope this recipe becomes a winner for you. It’s a simple classic but it’s a well loved jam flavor for a reason! Enjoy the process as well, there is something so satisfying about looking at your finished jars and knowing you made your own jam.
I can’t wait to bring you more jam, jelly, and fruit preserve recipes, until then however, happy eating!
- 5 cups strawberries, crushed 2.5 to 3 pounds/8 cups
- 7 cups white sugar
- 1.75 ounces pectin, dry 1 packet
Wash and dry four 16 ounces mason jars (pint jars), and 4 lids with new seals, set aside to dry on a clean kitchen towel with a ladle and wide mouth funnel. Make sure jars are warm when adding hot jam to them.*
Blend whole, stemmed strawberries until you have a chunky puree.
Combine strawberries with pectin in a large, non-reactive pot over medium-high heat and stir to dissolve pectin. Bring to a rolling boil.
Bring a separate large pot with enough water to cover jars by 1 inch to a boil.
When strawberry mixture is boiling add in sugar and stir to dissolve. Continue stirring and return to a rolling boil. Once boiling cook for 3 to 4 minutes while continuing to stir.*
Remove from heat when time is up. Ladle into warm jars with funnel and carefully place seals and lids on jars.*
Submerge jars into boiling water and let remain for 10 minutes. Remove from water and place on towel to cool and seal. Jars are sealed when lid doesn't move when touched and has a small indent.
Store in cupboard for up to 1 year, and when opened in fridge for 1 month.