Monday, March 28, 2011
We Be (Strawberry) Jammin'
Most jellies and jams involve pectin, a powder used as a gelling or thickening agent. Ina's recipe is sans-pectin, leaving you with just a few simple ingredients. I initially thought that pectin was also an ingredient that preserved the jam, but my Wikipedia research seems to say that the preservation of jams and jellies has more to do with the method (i.e. canning) than the ingredients.
So while Ina proved me wrong in the degree of difficulty for fresh jam, I'm still convinced that canning - or preserving foods for later use - is tough. The process of sterilizing the jars for this recipe was a good amount of work itself! Tips on sterilizing follow the recipe.
Fresh Strawberry Jam
2 cups sugar
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 1/2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
Jars should be made of glass and free of any chips or cracks. To sterilize jars, wash them with hot, soapy water. Rinse well, then boil in a large saucepan, covered with water, for 15 minutes.
Use tongs when handling hot sterilized jars to remove them from the boiling water. As a rule, hot preserves go into hot jars and cold preserves go into cold jars.
After I jarred my jam, I wasn't entirely convinced that I had been successful because it didn't seem to gel or set up. But then I realized two things: 1) I was making jam, not jelly, so it was bound to be runnier (especially without using pectin), and 2) Even my store-bought jams are a little runny ... probably because they're not jelly!
So once I got over that, I determined that I'd had a pretty successful attempt at jam! It's sweet and delicious, and it's just begging me to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Or bake some biscuits. Or even make some jam thumbprint cookies.
Incidentally, pectin is also used in making jellybeans, which gives me an idea ... :)