Lemon Strawberry Jam
Growing up, strawberry jam was always my very favorite. Mom made it in little batches, several times each season. Though she never canned her jam, she usually put a jar or two in the freezer from each batch. We ate the rest within a day or two! My mom’s strawberry jam was one of my favorite things she made.
The summer before I got married, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to pull a jar of mom’s strawberry jam from her freezer…it was going to have to be MY strawberry jam! So that summer I picked my own berries, and made my own batch of jam. Of course, I didn’t own a freezer yet, so I went ahead and canned my jam and kept it in my bedroom until time to move into my first home of my own.
Since then, I have made jam every summer, using several different methods and multiple recipes. I went through a stage where I tried to cut as much sugar as possible out of our diet. This included the strawberry jam. After several batches of trial and error, some hard earned jars of jam getting tossed in the compost, and a whole lot of phone calls to Mom and hubby’s Mom, I have finally settled on my favorite way to make strawberry jam.
Cleaning the Kitchen
Anytime I’m going to do a project in the kitchen, the first step is to clean everything up. My husband and I joke about this often. As soon as one of us finishes doing the dishes we say “okay, it’s all ready for you to make it messy again!” And believe me, making jam is a take over the house kind of project for me.
It’s important to have clean surfaces to work on since you’re going to be canning the jam. Everything needs to be sanitary. You don’t want any bacteria going into the jars with your delicious fruit. I also work better in a clean space.
Here is a list of the items you need for this canning project.
- Measuring Cups
- Potato Masher
- Electric Skillet, Large Pot, or both
- Water Bath Canner
- 1/2 pint Canning Jars
- Lids & Rings
- Kitchen Cloth
- Canning Tools (jar lifter, funnel, ladle, etc)
- Sharpie Pen
Preparing the Berries
Cut the stems off your strawberries and toss them in the compost bin for the chickens. (You have chickens, right!?) Then rinse the strawberries well under cold water and place in a colander to drip dry.
There’s no need to slice your berries. I just mash them with a potato masher, just enough to accurately measure 8 cups of smashed berries.
Tips & Tricks
Why am I putting butter in my Strawberry Jam!? This is something I learned from my mom. The butter keeps the jam from foaming up so much and boiling over!
As I already said above, I really love to cut sugar back as far as I possible in my recipes. Strawberries are already pretty sweet, so I used to think I could really cut the sugar back. I tried and failed two years in a row. The jam still tastes fine, but it doesn’t hold a good texture, it doesn’t keep good color in the jars, and quite frankly, I was afraid to eat it after being stored for just a few months. When you spend precious money on beautiful berries, a few days of your time canning the preserves, and space in your pantry to store it, you really want to be confident that your jam is still going to taste good when you go to use it. I’ve determined that I am only comfortable cutting the sugar back to 5 cups of sugar to 8 cups of berries. That still seems like a lot of sugar to me, but compared to equal parts sugar and berries, that is a huge improvement!
One last tip I have for you is the gel test. Take a metal spoon and throw it in the freezer as you start cooking down your jam. When you are getting close to the end of the projected processing time, grab that spoon from the freezer and scoop up a spoonful of your tasty jam. If it pours off the spoon, it is not set yet. If you get one line of drip, it still isn’t set. Two lines of dripping off the spoon and you’re in the acceptable margin. For the best jam, you want it to actually come off the spoon in a sheet…so a bit like a waterfall perhaps.
So many times I have gotten scared and went ahead and took my jam off the burner before it had set. We ended up with strawberry syrup instead of jam. Now I am very patient. I just keep licking that spoon, putting it back in the freezer, and trying the gel test again every few minutes until it is just perfect. My mom is amazing, she just eyeballs it every time. Her jam always turns out. Perhaps after years of experience, I will be able to do the same. But for now, I will stick with the gel test, enjoying little spoonfuls of delightful jam as I clean the spoon to put it back in the freezer to test again.
Preparing the Jars
While waiting for your jam to cook and set, gather your canning jars together and sterilize them. You can run them through a rinse cycle in the dish washer, set them in the rack of your already boiling canner, or simply hand wash them in very hot tap water (but only if your tap water is truly VERY hot like mine).
After sterilizing the jars, I set them out on a towel (to catch the drips) on the counter. Next you want to bring your lids to a boil in a small pan. Get your funnel, ladle, jar lifter, and any other items ready to go. Get a small clean wash cloth damp and ready to wipe the rims of the jars.
The Canning Process
Ladle your hot jam into the sterilized, and hopefully still hot, jars. Be sure to leave 1/4-1/2 inch of headspace. Next take your damp wash cloth and clean off the rim of each jar. I always think I can’t see that I spilled anything on the rims, but every time as I wipe them off, my cloth shows red strawberries that it cleaned off. If the rims have anything on them, it can mess up the seals of the lids.
Once the rims are clean, use your handy dandy magnetic lid lifter to grab your lids from the pan of hot water. Place on each jar and secure with a clean ring. Screw the rings down firmly, but not too tight.
With your jars ready to go, transfer them carefully to the rack in the canner. If you have empty spaces between jars, fill an empty jar with hot water to fill in the gaps. Don’t leave empty spaces in the canner or your jars of jam may fall over during processing.
Lastly, carefully lower the rack with the jars down into the boiling water. I really take my time with this! When I first started canning, I broke at least one jar per batch of canning. This got old really fast!! I’ve decided it is worth it to just lower VERY slowly, allowing the jars to adjust to the temperature gradually. I would rather take an entire minute to lower my jars, than to constantly risk breaking jars. Since adopting this practice, I can hardly remember breaking a canning jar. Yes, there is already hot jam in your jars, so technically they are hot…but I’ve just broken too many jars and I’m not about to let a jar of delicious strawberry jam spill wastefully into my canner. Better safe than sorry!!!
Once the water reaches a gently rolling boil, process the jars for 15 minutes. When the timer rings, lift the jar rack and rest it on the edges of the canner while you prepare a place to set the jars. I usually throw a towel on the back of the counter or the back of the table, somewhere out of the way as the jars will need to rest there for 24 hours before you should move them.
Carefully use your jar lifter to grab each jar of jam and transfer it to the cooling area. You’ll notice that some of the jars will have already sealed (that’s what that popping sound is!) while they were sitting in the rack cooling. Some people like to count the pops as each jar seals, I usually don’t even notice anymore.
One the jars have fully cooled, you can check the seals. I like to check two ways. I remove all the rings and then push my finger down on the center of each lid. If the lids pushes down at all, that jar is not sealed and should either be eaten right away or re processed. The second way I check the seals is by picking each jar up by the edge of the lids.
If everything is sealed, you’re ready to store your jars away! I leave the rings off for storage and I give them a gentle washing before they go into the cupboard as well. If there is any jam leftovers sitting on the outside of the jars, it will mold and just be gross. I’d rather wipe them down now so I can pull beautiful clean jars out of the cupboard.
Favorite Ways to Enjoy
It doesn’t get much better than homemade white bread fresh out of the oven with homemade strawberry jam slathered all over it!! But, if you’re not in the mood for baking bread, there are several other delicious ways to enjoy your jam. Add a spoonful to plain yogurt, use as a pancake topping, or eat with your favorite biscuits. What’s your favorite way to enjoy strawberry jam? Let me know in the comments! And don’t forget to share this post on social media if you enjoyed.