If you read this blog with any regularity you know about my struggle with my weight, and how recently (the end of April) I started my family on a mission to change our eating habits from a regular diet to eating real, organic foods.
When I made the switch I was incredibly worried about how my boys were going to react, and whether or not they would like the food. I will say that they have honestly said they prefer it! Well, at least 95% of it! LOL Joe Cool has said that he doesn’t car for the All Natural Cookie Dough ice cream because it is “grainy”, but The Genius has eaten the entire container, so I guess different palates like different things.
We changed our diet, and started eating organic produce, organic chicken, organic diary products and grass fed beef. Along with all of this, I started canning more. I had my first experience canning last year when I canned plain tomatoes from my garden, as well as canning stewed tomatoes.
This year I decided to try my hand at making and canning Jam. I did some research and saw that most recipes called for pectin and LOTS of sugar! That was NOT what I wanted to add back in to my diet, so I did more research and saw that lots of people (especially this with organic or real food websites) were using apples to help thicken the jam, and honey to sweeten. I read that pectin actually adds sugar to the jam, and decided not to use either pectin or sugar.
Now in order to can, you will need certain tools. The “must have” tools are:
- Jars (of course) – I prefer the jars without shoulders. I buy them at the local grocery store. For jelly I use the small jelly jars, and for tomatoes I use pint sized jars, or wide mouth pint size jars.
- Ball Utensil set. This set has a funnel, jar lifter, lid lifter, and bubble remover tool. I don’t really use the bubble remover tool, but everything else is essential. This set can be easily purchased online for about $10.00, if you can’t find it locally.
- A Large pot. I actually purchased a canning pot online because was able to purchase the pot with a rack and all the above pictured tools for about $40.00. I didn’t want to mess with a pressure canner, and this does the job quite well.
- A ladle or big spoon to spoon your ingredients into the jars.
- An analog or digital scale. Many ingredients need to be measured. Mine is not an expensive one. I bought it from my lovely Pampered Chef consultant for about $30.00
- A potato masher. You will want your fruits to be mashed so your jam is “jammy” and not just cooked fruit. (I received a kitchen “power tool” for Christmas last year and used that to smash my fruit, but a good old potato masher is perfectly good as well)
Strawberry Jam recipe
- 3 pounds of organic strawberries
- 1.5 cup raw honey
- 1 apple, grated
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Rinse the strawberries, cut off the stem and cut them in half. Place them in a large pot on the stove over medium high heat. (I used my caldero, but any nice large pot will do). Add the honey to the pot. Grate the apple (including the skin) down to the core and add to the berry honey mixture. Add the lemon juice. Stir it together and heat to boiling.
Once it is boiling, turn the heat down a bit so it is a light boil, and cook for 30 to 60 minutes. The time variation really depends on how thick you want your jam. The longer you boil, the thicker it will become. However, this recipe will not be as thick as store bought jams, or jams with pectin. Scrape down the sides of the pot as the fruit cooks. It will burst while cooking, so don’t worry if that happens.
Mash the berries with a potato masher. Some foam will form on top of the berries as they are cooking. Some people skim it off and discard it. I just stirred it in, and didn’t worry about it. The taste of the jam is the same either way.
Meanwhile fill the canning pot ¾ full with water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Be sure to wash all jar pieces in hot soapy water first.
Once the water is boiling turn off the heat. Test the temperature with your thermometer and when it reaches 180 degrees F put the jars, bands and lids into the pot. Leave everything in the hot water until ready for use, removing one at a time as needed.
When the jam is done cooking do a taste test to make sure the thickness and flavor is to your liking.
Remove the first jar from the hot water using your jar lifter tool and shake out excess water. Don’t touch inside of the jar in order to keep it sterilized. Insert clean canning funnel and ladle the jam into the jar leaving ¼ inch headspace at the top (this is where the headspace tool can come in handy – leaving more space at the top might not give as good of a seal). If there are any air bubbles you can slide a clean knife along the inside of the jar to remove them. Using a clean rag wipe excess off the outside of the jar and rim.
Using a magnetic lid lifter pull the first lid out of the hot water and set on top of the jar without touching the bottom of it. Then while only touching the outside of the band screw it onto the jar just firmly enough so it doesn’t feel wobbly on the grooves. Repeat until all jars are filled.
Process the Jars: Bring large pot of water back to a boil. Using your jar lifter (or canning rack) carefully lower as many jars that will fit without overcrowding into the boiling water so they are covered by at least 1 – 2 inches of water. I use a rack inside the canner, so the jars do not directly touch the bottom of the pot (so hot water can flow beneath them). From the moment the water is boiling and the entire first batch of jars are submerged set the timer and process them for 10 minutes.
When 10 minutes is over use the jar lifter to carefully remove the jars from the water. Put them on the counter and don’t move them right away. You will hear your jar lids “popping” which means they have been sealed properly. If jars aren’t sealed within 12 hours then move them to the fridge and eat within 3 – 4 weeks.
Remove bands from sealed jars and with a clean, wet cloth wipe off any jam that has congealed on the outside rim of the jar. This prevents mold from forming on the band. The band can be reapplied, but don’t screw them on too tightly.
Label jars and store in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 1 year.
I also made Blackberry jam sweetened with honey, that post will be coming soon! YUM!