Strawberry jam to ease a heat wave

On my ferry ride into the city Friday night, one of the drivers came on the loudspeaker announcing, “No we do not have air conditioning. No, the city isn’t any cooler. Have a lovely evening.” Yikes. Well, to his credit, we were all a bit grouchy. This past weekend, a heatwave descended on the Bay Area. The ferry was stifling hot and the air was stagnant. Not exactly the perfect night to stand around a simmering pot of strawberries for two hours making jam. But we don’t always have a choice in these matters. So in a tank-top, flip-flops, my hair pulled back, and extra-large water bottle in tow, I walked into Urban Kitchen SF excited to begin.

There’s a part of me that’s always felt like maybe I was born in the wrong era. I loved Little House on the Prairie (I still have the boxed set up in my closet somewhere), and always fantasized about what it’d be like to live off the land. I despise wasting food, and will eat the same meal for days to avoid doing so. So I’m actually surprised I haven’t gotten into canning sooner. I’m not sure what inspired me to take this course initially, but after meeting Jordan Champagne from Happy Girl Kitchen Co., I know it will not be a waning interest.

Jordan and her husband Todd started their company after working in California’s Central Coast and seeing the enormous amount of fruit that goes to waste during the harvest. This, combined with Jordan’s dislike for the overly-sweet jams on the market…and Happy Girl Kitchen was born. Today they’re based out of Oakland, CA and they make some pretty awesome products. I was lucky enough to get the recipe for their infamous strawberry jam during the workshop and I’ll share it here with you.
When we walked in, there were tables overflowing with organic, local berries. We had so many leftover that we each got to fill up jars of berries to take home. The raspberries were perfectly delicate and the blackberries, soft and tart.

Since we only had two hours, we got going quickly, getting the strawberries cooking right away. Although most of her recipes are naturally low in sugar, Jordan utilizes the old-fashioned or “slow” method of jamming relying mostly on sugar rather than pectin or other stabilizers. This means more time stirring at the oven. In my particular case–as we were working in an outdoor kitchen right outside of the Ferry Building–this meant lots of stirring while watching a naked biker, “Critical Mass” (a common impromptu bike parade, intentionally blocking off streets to make a statement about our over-reliance on automobiles, among other things), and an aristocratic looking gentleman proposing to his leather-clad boyfriend. Ah, San Francisco. And it wasn’t getting any cooler over that stove. But I kept stirring. It was pretty easy to escape into the smell of sweet, warm strawberries. And I was very focused on the end-product, on toting a few jars of homemade jam back onto the ferry for the next morning’s breakfast.

I brought home two jars of jam, one jar of preserved berries, and a jar of honey syrup for future preserving. While sweaty and a little overcrowded, I can’t imagine a better way to spend a Friday night. And while I know each time I make jam probably won’t be filled with new friends, naked folks, and sweaty limbs, I’m excited to jump into this hobby head-on and capture some of late August for those dark January evenings when we all forget what summer tastes like. Jordan’s recipe follows.

Strawberry Lemon Jam
This recipe calls for macerating the strawberries overnight, essentially pouring the sugar right over the top of them, allowing it to soak in while the strawberries slowly release their juices. Yes, it’s an old-fashioned technique but it results in a lovely, subtly sweet, special jam. You can let them macerate in their sugars for 48 hours if you need to, but 18-24 hours should be plenty. If you would rather skip this step, you certainly can. But you may face difficulty getting the jam to gel. You’ll notice a much lower sugar content in this jam than others–try it, you won’t miss a thing. The natural sweetness of the berries is on display.

14 cups strawberries
4 cups sugar
1/3 cups fresh lemon juice

Wash and de-stem the berries and allow them to drain thoroughly.

Place berries and lemon juice in a pot and scatter the sugar evenly on top. Don’t stir or disturb the berries–the sugar will filter down and capture all the juices. Leave at room temperature for 18-24 hours.

After gathering all of your canning equipment, mash the berries by hand or with a masher. Add the contents to a non-reactive pot and bring to a hearty boil. Boil until gel point is reached (10-30 minutes).* Process in a hot water bath canner for 5 minutes.

Jam recipe yields roughly enough for 1 case (12, 6 oz. jars).

*After canning numerous time, you’ll be able to eye whether or not your jam is at the gelling point or not. I’m not there yet. Jordan taught us a trick where you freeze a plate and put a little spoonful of jam on the frozen plate, bringing its temperature down quickly so you can see what it would look like at room temperature. It should look like the consistency of jam. If it doesn’t, keep on heating and stirring. Sidenote: I will say, after just one night of making jam, you do get a sense for the foam that forms, and how the foam settles after a while, and the strawberries really cook down…a
nd then it’s ready. Experiment. Have fun. Don’t take it too seriously: envision naked bikers and gay proposals.

Comments

  1. OysterCulture

    I've been making homemade jams and jellies lately and having so much fun doing it. Love the variety and the feeling of satisfaction when I hear the "pop" at the end.

  2. Chez Danisse

    Fun! I've canned plums, blackberries, pears, all sorts of pickles, but no strawberries. I like this recipe and would like to experiment with the macerating technique--interesting. Thanks!

  3. MaryMoh

    Looks easy to make strawberry jam. However I do wonder 14 cups of strawberries is equivalent to how many grammes. That would be easier since measuring with cups for strawberries is quite tricky. Thanks for the recipe.

  4. Megan Gordon

    Thanks for the comments, Denise and Oyster Culture. Yes, the macerating is an interesting technique. It certainly slows things down a little, but that's the point, right?

  5. Megan Gordon

    Hi Mary-good point. I don't work with grams, so I'm not too familiar with the conversions, but I looked it up and 1 cup of halved strawberries is 152 g. So, 14 cups would be 2, 128 grams. I hope that helps. I realize the other way isn't super precise, but a lot of berry recipes are written this way...maybe they take into account a little air??? Enjoy and thanks for stopping by.

  6. Mary Kate

    Beautiful blog, Megan!! Looking forward to more!

  7. Mirna

    Not to sound like a complete idiot but when do I use the lemon juice? I have only made pepper jelly so I am a novice...

    1. megang

      Hi Mirna! You don't sound like an idiot at all. After re-reading the directions, it's a big vague, isn't it? So I revised them: add the lemon juice at the same time that you add the sugar. Good luck!

  8. sue curry

    can you use frozen strawberries, that have been home process to the freezer, defrosted and then make this jam

    1. megang

      Hi, Sue: You know what? I honestly don't know. I'm a little hesitant to say yes because the moisture content is going to be slightly off (and will depend how they were frozen, how long etc.) so I'd hate to say yes or no without trying it myself. Do you know the blog Food in Jars? Marissa is a real pro (whereas I'm more of a dabbler when it comes to canning), so I'd ask her and see if she can shed a bit more light. Good luck and let me know if you do end up trying it.

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