One of our local fruit stands has been advertising that they still have fresh strawberries. Having now put up several flavors of jam and jelly, I can safely say that strawberry is my favorite. My own supply is becoming dangerously low and I hadn’t yet put up any new jam this summer, so that sign kept elbowing me in the ribs (rather sharply) every time I drove by it.
So yesterday I made a special trip to get those strawberries. They were lovely – “Maltby Grown” and picked that morning. The berries were all deep red and nice and plump. But here’s the horror: $4.49 per pint. Wow. That’s about $10 per pound for strawberries. They might be local and they might be pesticide free, but I just can’t stomach paying that much for strawberries. Or any berries.
Sadly I made my way back to the parking lot and my car. No fresh jam for me this year, it seemed. I began driving home when suddenly I thought I might try my beloved Yakima Fruit Market. Last time I was there they didn’t have strawberries, but it was worth a shot.
My lucky day! A huge batch of strawberries sat front and center, and only $2.50/lb! They were bright red and ripe and smelled delicious as only fresh strawberries can. I quickly snatched up 4 containers and made a run for it.
My previous batch of strawberry jam was a cooked & canned version. I love the flavor, but like most jams I’ve made, I felt that there was too much sugar and it ended up masking the fresh fruit flavor. But, encouraged by a post from Alicia at Posie Gets Cosy, I decided to try freezer jam. Her description, and incredible pictures as proof, of the beautiful colors and flavors of the jam have been in my mind for more than a year now.
I’d had the freezer jam pectin for a while, at least two summers. I hoped it was still good but I guess that stuff can sit for a few years before it loses it’s magical jelling power. I also had a load of little plastic freezer jam containers, which I bought on sale at the end of last summer.
According to the package instructions, 4lbs was to yeild about 4c crushed berries. I have a bad habit of not measuring key ingredients in the middle of the canning process (I’m sure this contributes mightily to my random success pattern), but even without measuring it was pretty obvious that I had more than 4 cups of crushed strawberries. Since I really wanted this to jell, I mixed another batch of sugar and pectin and dumped that in.
In hindsight, I’m glad I did this. It ended up that I had nearly 8 cups of crushed berries – if I hadn’t added that second batch of pectin I’d have 10 ½-pints of strawberry syrup – which might be yummy, but which wouldn’t hold up too well on toast and PB&Js.
Everything set just right, and I was very happy with the small amount of sugar I was able to use. I tasted a drop and while it is quite sweet the fruit flavor bursts through. And, it is much brighter and fresher-tasting than the cooked version. The jam is beautiful – such a bright red – and smells just like fresh berries.
And best of all, the whole thing took only 15 minutes from start to finish!