In times past, father's day tradition in our family consisted of the fam heading out to the berry farm, picking strawberries and then making and canning jam for our Poppey. This is what he loves and I tell you what, he can down a jar of jam faster than anyone I know; faster than the two of us can devour a freshly canned jar of pickles! Over the years as we all got older we kind of lost that tradition. This year I thought it would be a good one to bring back.
Luckily for us, Auntie Kirsten was going to take Brandon and Adam to Boxx Berry Farm and asked us to come along. Side note, Auntie Kirsten isn't really our auntie... she's Brandon and Adam's auntie, but Noodle Nose took to calling her that after he realized that Miss Crystal wasn't getting her attention. Additional side note, we had a lovely time with our dear friends' family and extended family while they were off galavanting in Vegas... we won't talk about what happened there because, well, you know the rules about Vegas.
Back to the jam, we had a blast picking strawberries; although Kirsten and I both realized that picking berries means that you have to do something with them. Right now. They're ripe!! We realized this as we sipped adult altered strawberry lemonade (made with some of the strawberries) and pondered what the heck to do with 15 pounds of strawberries each.
I went ahead and froze half of mine... I'll deal with those later. As for the other half, I set to making and canning my jam. I've done it before but it's been a while so my experience consisted of a lot of text messages and phone calls to Auntie Erin, farm mama and canning queen.
6 cups fresh strawberries, de-stemmed and slightly mashed
7 cups organic sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 pkg liquid pectin OR 1 pkg dry pectin
The making of the jam is really easy. The canning isn't so bad either, it is just time consuming. Needless to say, I didn't get a ton of pictures because I was up to my elbows in jam and my photo shooting Honey was 'busy'.
On the strawberries: first wash them... yeah. Then de-stem the little darlings. I used a knife, then my mama gave me a fantastic little strawberry de-stemmer do hickey. Can't wait to try it out. Once they're de-stemmed, put them in a large bowl and mash them a little with a potato masher. Don't go crazy, just mush them up. This should not be difficult with fresh picked strawberries; as I said, they are so ready to go the minute you pick them.
In a large pot, add the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and pectin. Bring to a boil and let simmer, stirring occassionally to avoid sticking. I use my fantastic Mario Batali stonewear so sticking is not a problem.
Meanwhile... Prepare your canning supplies. You will need:
New lids (you can't re-use the lids but you can re-use the rings)
Giant pot for boiling jars
Thingy that goes in the pot to hold the jars
Smaller pot to boil lids and rings Extremely helpful:
Jar grabber (my operation was slightly WT... I didn't have one of those, hence the burns on my hands)
Canning tongs (I opted for the WT version... salad tongs and dish towels. Not as handy) Kind of helpful:
Wash and sterilize your jars. You can do this ahead of time, which is recommended. I did not; however, my jars were clean so I just sterilized them by boiling them in the giant pot of boiling water. To do this, boil for 10 minutes then remove and let air dry. If you want to do it the dishwasher way, do it ahead of time. I will assume you know how to run your own dishwasher. When you're done boiling your jars, keep the boil going on your pot, you will need it for the jam and it takes a decade to heat that much water; just put the lid on the giant pot.
In another smaller pot boil more water and add your fresh lids and rings. Once this boils, you can turn it off but leave the lid on. You'll get to the lids and rings in a bit.
Back to your jam:
As you're multi-tasking, stirring your jam and preparing your jars, etc... you will see your jam begin to set up. This is when I called Auntie Erin... I will provide her phone number later. Ok, just kidding. When it sticks to the spoon but slowly drips off, first skim the foam off the top of the jam. Note: do not throw this away! This is fantastical sustinance, which you will need throughout the canning process. Once you skim the foam and set aside (not too far aside) you're ready to start the canning frenzy.
Ladle the jam in your first sterilized, dry jar. Note: this is when a jar funnel comes in handy. I did not have one... I'm raw like that. It was fine. Make sure when you are ladling that you leave at least 1/4 inch space at the top of the jar.
Also, this is very important, before putting the lid on, make sure you wipe the rim of the jar really well. You don't want anything at all on the rim. I repeat, the rim should be clean as a whistle; as clean as clean can be. I'm serious. When it's really clean, use your tongs to grab one of your lids out of the hot water and set it on the jar. Then grab one of your rings from the pot of hot water and screw it on. Note: you don't want to screw it on tight, just 'finger tight' as Auntie Erin says. I basically turned the ring until I felt it 'grab' the jar, then stopped.
Repeat this for 5 more jars, making a total of 6 jars for your first batch. I say 6 because that's how many my jar holder (in the hot water pot) holds. That's not including the middle space, which you could put a jar in but uneven numbers make me uncomfortable. That, and I would be extra uncomfortable processing 7 the first round then five the second round when I could do two rounds of 6. Apologies for the digression.
When your 6 jars are ladled, wiped, lidded and rimmed, open the lid to your giant pot of boiling water and put each one on the rack then lower the rack into the water. Cover with your lid and set the timer for 10 minutes.
While the first batch is processing, you have time to prepare your second batch. Just repeat steps above.
When the 10 minutes process time is up, open the lid to your giant pot of water and fish out the arms of the jar rack. This is where those fancy tongs come in handy. Again, I didn't have any so I was using salad tongs, hence the other burns on my hands. Settle the rack on the edge of the pot and, using your jar grabber (or WT dish towel version, like me) grab the jars out and set on the counter.
I don't know if this really makes a difference, but when canning with my super mama, she always said that you take the jars out and put them somewhere they aren't disturbed. They have to 'suck down' and set so you don't want to be moving them around too much.
Pop your second batch on to the rack in the giant pot of boiling water, lower rack, cover pot with lid, set timer to process for 10 minutes. Then, at the end of 10 minutes, repeat removal process.
Once the jars have cooled, you can label and give away or keep for yourself. They make a great gift... anyone who receives it will be blasted back to summer upon cracking open a jar.
If you have made it thru this post, I commend you. It really is easy and having the right equipment makes it easier. I'm going to do this again but before I do I'm going to pick myself up a jar grabber and canning tongs; save my hands the misery of hot water burns.
I am the first to admit I am not a canning expert, hence all the telephone calls and text messages to Auntie Erin... I keep telling her she needs to start a blog: 'girl on a farm... with baby' or something like that. Then she can blog about all her wonderful gardening, canning and other farm whatnot every girl should know.