I. LOVE. JAM. My favorite is strawberry. I do love apricot, and raspberry, AND the classic grape jelly. It always makes me think about my grandfather, Poppy. I remember him eating cream cheese and grape jelly sandwiches.
My jam making tenets:
- Always use honey
- Use local fruit
- Don't use pectin (or at least not the stuff in the packet)
- Re-use my leftover honey jars
- Seal with beeswax
Right now I'm focused on strawberry. I got a nice flat over the weekend from a local Connecticut farm. Not too wet. And not California sweet.
I'm one of those cooks who never really cook anything the same way twice, and I most certainly never follow a recipe. However...this is the base recipe that I've zeroed in on over the last few years. The recipe is inspired by some basic honey jam recipes that I generally find cloying, so I modify. For the method, I look to the classic Joy of Cooking. Rombauer's Red Red Strawberry Jam recipe is great. So now I have this simple, sweet-tart recipe that's sweetened by roughly half honey, half sugar; and is most definitely The JAM!
Oh, and another fun note for you honey nerds...yeah, you. Normally I make this with New York Basswood Honey because it's super light and doesn't darken the jam. This year I decided to try Oregon Meadowfoam Honey. I thought that the juicy, caramelized sugar and cotton candy notes would shine really nicely in jam. I WAS SO RIGHT. It's amazing.
The recipe yields about five 8oz jars. Maybe a little less.
- 2 1/2 pounds local, ripe strawberries
- 1 liquid cup raw honey (happens to be one jar of Bee Raw) Oregon Meadowfoam Honey
- 3/4 cup raw cane sugar
- 1 small mostly green apple (as in not ripe) A small Granny Smith will suffice
- Fine zest from half a lemon
- Juice of half a lemon
- Hull strawberries. Halve the big ones. This allows them to release their juices and cook more evenly.
- Peel apple and grate it to the core with a fine cheese grater.
- Place strawberries, grated apple and lemon zest in a large, very heavy-bottomed pot. I like my Le Creuset Dutch Oven.
- Cover with sugar and honey.
- Start on medium low stirring very gently occasionally as the berries warm and begin to release some juice.
- Raise the heat to medium and do not stir again.
- Once the entire pot is at a full bubbling boil, set a timer for 18 minutes - 22 if your berries or apple are very juicy.
- Again, do not stir except to gently draw spoon across bottom to check for sticking.
- When the timer rings, tilt the pot and check the liquid on the bottom for setting. It should have a medium-light syrupy consistency.
- Remove pot from heat and set on a grate to cool uncovered. Sprinkle the surface of the jam with the freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Once cooled, but still warm to the touch, stir the jam and jar it according to your favorite canning method, or store in the fridge for up to a year.
- Not stirring is part of what makes this recipe Red Red strawberry jam. Stirring oxidizes the fruit making it darker.
- Canning: Many people use canning jars which when filled get closed and then boiled for a period of time to sterilize the whole kit and caboodle. I grew up using a different method; sealing with wax. There are many facts that say processing with a boiling bath canner is more sterile. I find sealing with wax the easiest for me and have never had an issue. If you don't feel like canning at all, you may also put a clean lid on it and the jam will hold refrigerated for up to a year. Get out your Sharpie.
Here's the process I use, but warning: the pros say don't do it
While making the jam, sterilize the jars (and caps) either by running them through the dishwasher with added heated dry time or by placing jars in a pot and filling the pot and the jars with water and boiling. Yeah... the dishwasher is way easier.
Once the jam is done and cooling, I melt the beeswax in a pyrex liquid measuring cup that I only use for this purpose. And yes, that got the sterilizing treatment, too.
When the jam is cool and the wax is melted, I fill the jars using a canning funnel (steriized) to just above the neck. Next, I gently top with a thin layer of melted beeswax using a sterilized spoon or chopstick to slow the flow of the wax as it meets the top of the jam. After the first layer cools I go back and add a second layer, just in case. Now, cap and date.
Here are some resources for canning: