Summer is here and that means it is strawberry season here in Oregon. This is one of my favorite times of the year. There is nothing better than a ripe red strawberry warmed by the sun right off the vine. (Is anyone else’s mouth watering?) The strawberry season here in Oregon is short depending on the type of strawberry grown so I like to preserve it’s bounty in any way possible. My favorite way to preserve this wonderful fruit is in strawberry jam.
I have made strawberry jam in the past, usually opting for the recipe that comes in the box of pectin. But last year for Christmas I received the book Naturally Sweet Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan and was immediately excited to try it all out. Her book focuses on using honey, maple, agave nectar, and coconut sugar in place of white refined sugar for making preserves.
My family has always preserved as much food as possible during the summer and that included making jams and jellies. But when I started making these on my own I realized there was soooo much sugar added. Especially when some add more sugar than fruit!!!
There are so many recipes to choose from in this book and I highly recommend getting a copy of your own but because I had agave nectar in my pantry I opted to try the “Lemony Strawberry Jam.” Marisa’s book contains a small narrative before each recipe and in this one, she mentions that the jam could be spiked with balsamic vinegar and some ground pepper. When I told the hubby this he was immediately excited as he loves balsamic vinegar on strawberries. So this is the recipe we opted to make.
If you are new to preserving/canning I have listed the materials you will need to get started.
Materials Needed for Canning Natural Strawberry Jam:
How to Make Strawberry Jam for Canning
Prepare your jars for canning, you will need to have your jars cleaned and sterlized. I run mine through the dishwasher with the sanitize setting and they are just fine. (This is not what the professionals say to do but this is what works for me.)
Another part of the prep is to fill your canner full of water and start the burner so it has a chance to come to a boil.
Set your jars, lids, and rings all next to the counter on the stove or anywhere they are easily accessible once the jam has cooked.
Prepare the strawberries as instructed in the recipe and follow the cooking of the strawberries exactly as written. When canning/preserving and using a water bath or pressure cooker you don’t want to add or subtract ingredients. As that will alter the chemical makeup of your fruit or vegetables and they may not set up correctly which could cause illness if not done properly.
When it comes to filling your jars ensure that you leave about 1/2″ of headspace for expansion when the jars are being canned in the water bath. I use the large funnel that comes with the canning kit that I listed above. This along with a ladle works great to transfer the hot fruit into the jars. Now it is ok if you spill some of your jam, it is inevitable, don’t worry about cleaning it off the jars right away if this happens.
So most canning recipes ask that you also sterilize the lids that you will be using. In my family, we have always done this by placing the lids in a small saucepan of water and letting it come to a boil. Before place the lids on the fruit-filled jars you will want to wipe down any spills from the rim of the jar. This ensures that the lid doesn’t have any barriers to making a seal. My family has always done this by taking a wet paper towel and wiping down all the jar rims, even if there is no visible fruit spilled.
Using the magnetic stick (not an official term but that’s what I call it!) grab a lid one at a time out of the saucepan that you let them boil in and place it on the jar. Once all the lids are on you will take the rings and tighten one down on each one of your jars.
When a recipe calls for the jars to be processed in a water bath you will want to make sure your canner full of water is boiling before you start timing. Once you place the jars in (ensure they aren’t touching) you will lower the water temperature so you will need to make sure it comes back up to a boil before you start timing.
Naturally Sweetened Strawberry Jam
Everyone needs a strawberry jam recipe and this one does not disappoint! Using agave nectar instead of sugar to sweeten, this makes a lovely spread for biscuits, toast or pancakes!
- 4 lbs strawberries, hulled and chopped (this is about 10 cups)
- 2 cups agave nectar, divided
- 1 Tbsp calcium water
- 1 Tbsp Pomona's pectin
- Grated zest and juice from 2 lemons
In a large, nonreactive pot place the strawberries, 1.5 cups of agave nectar, lemon juice and lemon zest and the calcium water. Stir it all together.
Bring the pot to a boil over high heat, once boiling lower the heat to medium-high and keep at a low boil. The strawberries will begin to break down, continue cooking until the strawberries have reduced by a quarter. This could take 15-25 minutes depending on the water content of the strawberries.
While the strawberries cook, take the pectin and whisk it into the remaining 1/2 cup of agave nectar.
Once the strawberries have cooked down and reduced by a quarter stir in the pectin/agave nectar mixture and bring back to a boil for an additional 3-4 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and using a funnel and ladle transfer the strawberry mixture to the prepared jars. Make sure to leave 1/2 inch of headspace in each jar.
Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp cloth or napkin, place a lid and ring on each jar and process in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Once your jars are done in the boiling water bath you will want to set them on a towel to cool for about 24 hours, this also allows the jars time to seal properly. Once they have cooled I like to take the rings off and reuse these and give all the jars a good wipe down with a wet rag all over to remove any cooked-on mess from the jars. For storage just keep in a cool dark place. Growing up we never threw out our own canned produce, fruit or jams/jellies unless they were visibly growing mold or generally didn’t look appealing. In my opinion, this jam can stay in your pantry for years to come as long as it is not exposed to extreme temperatures. That is if it will last that long!
I highly recommend this recipe to anyone wanting to make some strawberry jam. The steps are fairly simple and the results are so much better than store bought! My son lives on PB & J most days for his school lunch and I love that I just have to go to my pantry to grab a jar and open it!
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