Sunday, April 25, 2010

Is It Worth it? – Making Your Own Strawberry Jam

If you have been blessed with kids you know that Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches aren’t just an easy go to meal that you are sure the kids will eat but really a staple in the weekly menu. It is surprising how may jars of jam you can go through with two kids. So a couple of times of year a group of moms get together and we go to a local farm and go strawberry picking. For $10 you are provided a small bucket and can fill it overflowing with beautiful, fresh, ripe strawberries. This year we decided to all get together a preserve our bounty by making jars of strawberry jam.

For those who were wondering here is the recipe pulled straight from the farm’s website:

Cooked Jam
5 cups crushed berries (2qts)
7 cups (3lbs) sugar
1 box powdered fruit pectin
1/2 tsp of butter (not necessary, but I like to use it as it prevents froth)
Stir powdered pectin into the berries. Bring berries, pectin and butter to a rolling boil (meaning, when you stir it, it doesn't stop boiling) and stir in the sugar all at one. Again, bring the mixture back to a rolling boil (it might take 4 or 5 minutes to get it back to that rapid rolling boil) and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and fill jars. After the jars are sealed, we put them in a canner (I got mine on ebay for $15) and boil the jar in hot water for 5 minutes. This will ensure a tight seal, so that you can store the jars in your pantry for the rest of the year.
If you don't have a canner, you can use the following recipe:

Freezer Jam
2 cups crushed berries (1qt)
4 cups sugar (1 ¾ lb)
¾ cup water
1 box powdered fruit pectin
Add sugar to fruit and stir well. In a saucepan boil ¾ cup of water and the fruit pectin for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the hot pectin and water to the fruit and continue stirring for 3 minutes. Put in containers. Let stand 24 hours and store in freezer. When you need jam, you can take it out of the freezer and store it in the fridge for a week or so.

So, was it worth the trouble?

Filling our buckets took less than a half an hour on a Friday morning and was a fun activity for the kids. Yes, making the jam and sealing it in mason jars probably took a couple of hours worth of work but we made an evening of it and it was great fun.

From the 5 buckets of strawberries we picked, we used about 3 of them for jam. We yielded 40 jars of jam in varying sizes totalling 320 oz of jam.
A jar of generic, store bought jam will cost around $2.49 for 18oz (13.8c per oz). You might be able to get it cheaper than that, but any cheaper and you usually get preservatives and coloring to go with it. So, 320 0z of store bought jam would cost $44.16. With $30 of berries, $7.45 of pectin and $3.87 of sugar, our total was $41.32. If you're new to jam making, you would have to add in the initial investment of the cost of jars, but I was able to snag some from a friend at no cost and we'll be able to use the jars for years to come.

The cost comes out essentially the same - so was it worth it? Absolutely!

The #1 reason for me is taste. Once you've had home made jam, you'll find that your trained palate finds it difficult to go back to the store bought stuff.

#2 - I don't want to get all holistic, but it's the love that goes in to each and every jar. There's something extraordinarily gratifying about hand picking the berries from a local field, crushing them and going through the cooking and jarring process and then serving the wonderful gourmet end result to your family. They're also great as gifts. You'd probably never show up to a friend's house with a jar of Kroger jam, but home made jam... ah... that's another story!

#3 - You're encouraging local farming and business. It's great to have a huge strawberry field here in our own community. If no one supported it, the operation would close down and it's entirely possible that yet another Walmart would pop up in it's place.

#4 - The kids get to appreciate where food comes from. No, it doesn't just magically appear at the supermarket!

#5 - It's a fun social event. Sure, you could sit down and watch a movie, but dinner and a "jamming" session - a fun way to share a Friday night.

If you get a chance give it try. You may find that you love it too.

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1 comment:

  1. Oh man, homemade strawberry jam is fabulous! :)


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