image from strawberrysue.com
I am excited. We are getting into the warmer months of the year and that means that plants are starting to flower and fruits are beginning to ripen. Here in the Midwest strawberries will be coming into season here in the next week or two. For those that are further south, your strawberries are already ready for picking. For me though, strawberries means that it is time to start making strawberry jam, and start canning!
Canning is a great hobby for preppers. Its fun, and its a great way to preserve food and add to your preperations. Canned food can last for years, and during summer and fall months when crops are ready to be harvested, canning is a great way to preserve extra food.
When I can foods I like to see if I can find ways to can food without any extra preservatives or chemicals. First because this should hopefully make the food that is canned more healthy. Second because, if shtf, I still want to be able to can food without needing ingredients that I would currently have to buy at the store.
With jellies and jams, one common additives is pectin in either a liquid or powder form. The first thing to note is that pectin is a natural product. It is found in plants and helps bind cells together. The reason why more pectin may be added to jams and jellies, is because the amount of pectin in fruits varies widely. Pectin is a water soluble fiber, that is used almost exclusively in hgih sugar products. You add it to jams and jellies to help the product thicken, instead of reducing the material that is being cooked until it thickens naturally.
Using pectin can be a great choice to create jams and jellies that have less sugar content. It can also help develop your jams and jellies to exact consistency that you want. However, like I said I prefer not have any additives if its not neccessary. If shtf, I would no longer be able to buy pectin at the store, so I try and make my jams and jellies with just sugar and fruit.
Strawberry Jam Recipe
-8 to 10 cups strawberries, chopped
-1 cup lemon juice (optional) (I add the lemon juice to help balance out the flavor so it isn't too sweet)
-6 cups of sugar (you can even use more, but I like to keep it at six so it isn't quite so sweet)
-water bath for canning
Start by putting your small plate in the freezer and leave it there until later when you want to check the consistency of your jam.
The next thing you should do is make sure your cans are clean, and then sanitize them. Also get your water bath ready to go. You do not want to finish your jam and go to start canning and realize that you don't have a thing ready.
Put your chopped strawberries in a large pot. You can leave them chopped and add your other ingredients at this point. However I like to take a potato masher and crush the strawberries up. This will break down more of the strawberry and stop you from having any really large chunks of strawberries, releases a little more flavor, and most importantly breaks the strawberries down a little more to release more of the natural pectin in the fruit.
Once the strawberries are crushed, I mix in the lemon juice and the sugar.
Turn your burner on to medium high and let the mixture come to a boil. You want to make sure that whatever pot your using has some room above your strawberries because as the jam boils, it will have a foam that can bubble up quite a bit.
You can skim off the foam as well to stop it from topping your jam when you can it.
Let your jam boil for ten minutes.
This is the point where you take out your small plate from the freezer. Pour a small tsp or so of jam on the plate. Then run your finger through the puddle of jam, drawing a straight line. If your jam has jelled, the line will not come together. If the jam isn't ready yet than the liquid will come back together, erasing the line you drew through the jam.
If this is the case, then let the jam cook a bit longer and test again, until the jam has successfully gelled.
Usually ten minutes is good for around a pound of strawberries. The eight to ten cups in this recipe is approximately three pounds of strawberries. Therefore it is likely that the jam will take longer than the ten minutes to gel, however everyone's stove works a little different, and the water content in the strawberries will be different everytime. Therefore start at ten minutes and keep testing after the ten minute marks till you get the correct gelled consistancy.
Remember when you jam is in the pot, it will be liquid. You do not want your jam to reach a jam consistency in the pot. The result is that your jam will be relatively the consistency of candy once you can it, and let it cool. I know, because that is exactly what I did the first time I made strawberry jam. Opps! It was delicious, and hard as a rock.
Once your jam successfully gels on your plate, its time to take it off the heat and can it. Careful moving the jam from your pot to the cans. Hot jam does not feel good if you get it on your skin.
Once in the jars, place them in the hot water bath and let them go for ten minutes. Then pull them back out, and let them cool off, making sure that the tops pop inwards, showing that a vacumn seal hasn't been created. If the jar doesn't vacumn, put the jar back in the water bath for another ten minutes, and then try again. If after the second time your jar doesn't vacumn, then just keep it in your refrigerator and enjoy that jar of jam first! :)
All sorts of jams can be made without the addition of pectin. You just have to know how much sugar to add, and if you should add lemon juice for additional acid for the canning process.
No Pectin Jam Guide
Apricots - 4 to 4 1/2 cups crushed fruit - 4 cups sugar - 2tbsp lemon juice
Blackberries - 4 cups crushed fruit - 4 cups sugar
Boysenberries - 4 cups crushed fruit - 4 cups sugar
Dewberries - 4 cups crushed fruit - 4 cups sugar
Gooseberries - 4 cups crushed fruit - 4 cups sugar
Loganberries - 4 cups crushed fruits - 4 cups sugar
Peaches - 5 1/2 to 6 cups crushed fruit - 4 to 5 cups sugar - 2 tbsp lemon juice
Plums - 4 cups crushed fruit - 3 cups sugar - 2 tbsp lemon juice
Raspberries - 4 cups crushed fruits - 4 cups sugar
Strawberries - 4 cups crushed fruit - 4 cups sugar
*This doesn't cover every type of fruit out there. However as you can see with most fruits there is an approximately 1 to 1 ratio of cups of crushed fruit and sugar. This is a good rule to follow when your not sure how much sugar to use to make your jam. You can use less however the set on your jam will be softer and it will not last as long.
That is everything you need to know to make a no pectin jam. So go pick your strawberries or whatever type of fruit you want and get canning! I'll be posting up pictures of my strawberry jam in the next couple of weeks when our strawberries are ready to pick.