The strawberry. Ripe, red, sweet, juicy, what’s not to love? And — preserving it to eat in the dead of winter– even better! There’s something about pulling out a vibrant red jar of strawberry jam, bursting with fresh summer flavor, in the dead of winter that seems almost… defiant. And I’m all for rebellion when it comes to strawberry jam.
But I digress.
Making strawberry freezer jam was my first introduction to preserving and canning. It’s a super easy way to start, and being able to see such a huge accomplishment on the counter when you’re done (not to mention the almost fool-proof method) is enough to get you hooked. Our boys cannot get enough of this stuff, and they’re now at the ages where they can really help with the process from start to sticky finish. I wanted to take pictures along the way to preserve something else: memories. I wanted to remember how eager they were to help, how excited they were about seeing the results, their learning about how a jar of jam makes its way from a strawberry to our table.
Having all boys, I am bound and determined that they will be able to do household chores, and know their way around a kitchen. But let me be clear: I am not a patient person by nature. So I had to promise them before we got started that I would try to be tolerant, and they promised in return that they would try to follow the instructions. It actually ended up being a really fun day. And I found out that having a project to do together is really rewarding.
The strawberries came ready and ripe. Just look at these beauties!
Come to Mama…
That’s more like it!
Now, to get this baby and all its buddies mashed and into jars.
First, washing the jars. I usually wash the jars in the dishwasher to save time, but I didn’t plan ahead. And then, I realized that a dish full of suds is really photogenic.
Then, wash the berries. They don’t like to get too wet, or else they get kind-of mushy. They’re a bit picky that way. But can you blame them when they look that pretty in the first place? After washing, cap the stems and toss out any bad ones.
The cast of supporting characters is really simple: Sure Jell (pectin) and sugar. I always make the freezer jam version, which calls for lots of sugar. Obscene amounts of sugar. Just look away as you’re pouring it in the bowl. Look away, I tell you. And then remind yourself that you only have a tablespoon of jam on your bread at one time.
And then, after you mash the berries, you add that to the sugar, boil the pectin, and then combine it. Lots of measuring and stirring, but it is so worth it. The boys loved seeing how it all came together.
After the jars were filled, we all stood back and admired the results of our hard work. And then, of course I let the boys lick the bowls.
They didn’t seem to mind that part of the clean up.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m in the mood for a piece of toast.