Homemade Strawberry Jam…

Being that there are only two of us in my household I often get frustrated when I go grocery shopping and see the portion sizes of certain items. There seems to be so many things I want but I know neither my husband and I will be able finish before it goes bad or my husband doesn’t like what I like and I am faced with trying to finish something unrealistically large for one person.  The result is often throwing food away. And more and more you read about how much food American’s throw away each year when so many people are going hungry.  Does this predicament sound familiar to you?

Case in point – I love strawberries and my husband doesn’t eat them. So when I buy strawberries at the store the smallest size available is in a one pound plastic container (you can get them in smaller portions pre-cut but they are insanely expensive and I am not a big fan of frozen strawberries). In order to finish all of them before they go bad I am either faced with buying strawberries that are barely ripened so they last longer or not buying strawberries at all. Both options are unacceptable to me.

So just last week as I was bemoaning the fact that my strawberries were becoming soft and mushy. I decided to google how to use strawberries that were becoming soft and mushy. A suggestion popped up about making strawberry jam.  Bingo!

I had only eaten about one quarter pound of my strawberries and decided that I would try to make some jam out of what was remaining. It was a stroke of genius. I added two weeks to the lifetime of my strawberries and the homemade strawberry jam was to die for.

So let’s talk homemade strawberry jam…

Lesson Learned 1 – You probably will have to adjust this recipe especially where the sugar is concerned: This recipe is for a full pound of fresh strawberries. I had only approximately 3/4 of a pound (and I was guessing by eyeballing what I had left) and so I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to make the jam too sweet. A full pound of strawberries calls for 2/3 cup sugar. I only used 1/3 cup sugar and after making the jam felt I could’ve reduced that amount to a light 1/3 cup and still be ok. But I am not one who likes things too sugary sweet. So what I am saying here is play around with the amount of sugar you use keeping in mind that the strawberries have natural sugars as well. Even if you’re using a full pound of strawberries for your jam try a light 2/3 cup to start out. Now I know this must be “frying” the brains of those of you who feel you need exact measurements. My advice is to take a leap of faith and go with a little less on the sugar. After you make this a few times you will get a feel for exactly how much sugar you want in your jam.

The Amount Of Strawberries I Had

Lesson Learned 2 – Use the juice of half of lemon: I lot of recipes I saw called for 1 Tbs. of lemon juice. I used the juice of 1/2 of a large lemon. The lemon helps to balance out the sugar and the combination of flavors is absolutely delicious.

Lesson Learned 3 – Why a granny smith apple: Jams need pectin in order to thicken. And although you can buy pectin at the grocery store it comes naturally in the granny smith apple. So you are using a natural source of pectin to thicken your jam. Also, the tartness of the granny smith helps to balance out the sugar in the jam as well. And even though I did not make this recipe with a full pound of strawberries I still used the entire grated apple.  It made a wonderful addition to the jam.

The Main Ingredients

Lesson Learned 4 – You may need to simmer the jam longer than you think: Many recipes I saw said to simmer the jam ingredients for approximately 10-15 minutes. I had to simmer my jam for 1/2 hour. Now keep in mind I’m at high altitude and I don’t know whether that was a factor or not. Just make sure your jam is not runny and the liquid noticeably thick before you quit simmering it.

Simmer for 15-30 Minutes

It couldn’t be simpler. And you extend the life of your strawberries by at least a couple of weeks. I can tell you first hand that this jam on some crusty bread with a cup of coffee is over the moon delicious. So try it, and tell me what you think.

Homemade Strawberry Jam...

  • Servings: 12-14
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered

2/3 cup of sugar (err on the side of making it a light 2/3 cup)

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated

1/2 medium to large lemon, juiced

DIRECTIONS:

Combine the strawberries and sugar into a medium size saucepan. Stir in the grated granny smith apple. Cook over medium heat, breaking up the strawberries with a spoon until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar has dissolved, simmer the mixture until the jam has noticeably thickened (can be anywhere from 15 – 30 minutes).

Take off the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let cool. Cover and chill for at least two hours. Jam keeps best in a mason jar type container.

 

 

Homemade Cranberry Jam…

I don’t know about you but it seems after the holidays I always have at least one bag of fresh cranberries that I haven’t used. In the past the bag would jut sit in the refrigerator until I threw it out. I always felt it was such a waste as you can only get fresh cranberries around the holidays. But I finally discovered how to use those cranberries in a way I never considered before. That is, to make a wonderful jam. I tried it on my morning toast the other day and just loved it!

There are only a few ingredients, cranberries, brown sugar and water. No need to add any pectin to this recipe as cranberries are a natural source of it. Pectin is a starch that occurs naturally in the cell walls of fruits and vegetables. When these fruits and vegetables are cooked to a high temperature in combination with acid and sugar, a gel is formed. This is what gives jams and jellies their set when they cool. Pectin by itself can be used in other dishes that require food to gel or thicken. It’s also used as a fat substitute in some baked goods. But the cranberries naturally release pectin when they are boiled. That pop, pop you hear is the cranberry splitting open and releasing the pectin.

Now I realize you probably have already either used your remaining cranberries or thrown them out (like I used to do) but this is a good recipe to have in your back pocket for next holiday season. I promise I’ll remind you of it then so don’t worry.

So let’s talk cranberry jam

Lesson Learned 1 – You can control the sweetness of the jam: The recipe uses brown sugar. I suggest using the least amount and tasting the mixture before you reduce the heat and begin the stirring process. You can always add more sugar. I liked this recipe on the tangy side so I only added the least amount of brown sugar.

Lesson Learned 2 – For the last 10-15 minutes you need to stir the mixture constantly: You need to make the cranberries release the maximum amount of pectin. You also need to break down the berries for the jam. Cooking them the last 10-15 minutes accomplishes that. As I was stirring I was also taking some of the larger berries and pressing them against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon. That helped to break the berries down as well. After a while you will see a noticeable difference in the texture of the mixture – more jam-like. That is when you can stop.

Lesson Learned 3 – You can adjust this recipe: Depending on how much cranberries you have left you can adjust this recipe to that amount. So if you have a little or a lot, you can still make this wonderful jam.

I’m so pleased to know that I no longer need to waste any fresh cranberries after Christmas. This recipe makes a delightful unique jam that you will enjoy or toast, pancakes, or in any other way you use jam.

Homemade Cranberry Jam...

  • Servings: 16-18 Portions
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

4 cups of whole fresh cranberries

1 – 2 cups brown sugar, packed (start with 1 cup)

1 cup water

DIRECTIONS:

Bring the cranberries, sugar and water to a boil. Reduce the heat and let cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. At this point taste the mixture to see if it needs more sugar. Add more if necessary.

Reduce heat to a very low setting. Cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly. Break apart larger cranberries against the side of the pan with a spoon if necessary.

Cool in the pan for about 30 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a mason jar, cover and chill.

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