Strawberry Jam Throwdown! Classic vs. Added Pectin!

Okay, people, time to put those Ball&#174 jars and products to use! Why not make both a classic strawberry jam and one with added pectin? Then you can decide which you like best.

Strawberry Jam with Pectin

This basic jam recipe makes about 7.5 cups (7 8-oz jars).

A note about this recipe—it’s originally from the Ball Blue Book&#174, but every time I’ve made it, I’ve halved the recipe. I don’t like to put more than six jars in my canner at a time, so I cut the recipe in half, using a combination of 4-oz. and 8-oz. jars.

One more thing—in my world, “jams” and “preserves” are pretty much the same thing. Sorry if I’m not a purist.

What You Need

  • 7 8-oz jars, plus bands and lids
  • large pot, such as a saucepan, stockpot, or soup pot
  • canner that can hold at least 7 filled jars
  • jar lifter, jar magnet, funnel, chopstick or plastic knife, and headspace-measuring tool
  • jar rack or cake cooling rack that can fit inside the canner
  • large wooden spoon for stirring
  • something to crush the strawberries, like a potato masher
  • ladle

Ingredients

  • 8 cups strawberries, washed, drained, stemmed, and halved
  • 7 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 package powdered pectin (1.75 oz. or 49 g), such as Ball®; if halving this recipe, use a kitchen scale to weigh out 25 g of the pectin and save the rest for another batch of jam
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

Making the Jam

  1. READ THE RECIPE
  2. Prepare your jars, lids, and bands (instructions can be found here)
  3. Crush the berries. You can place a bunch of them in a Ziploc bag, close it, and use a rolling pin (be careful that they don’t burst out of the bag!) Or you can just place them in a bowl and use a sturdy spoon or potato masher. They needn’t be completely crushed—some discrete chunks are desirable!
  4. Place strawberries, lemon juice, and pectin in large pot and bring to a boil. Be sure to stir the mixture every now and then.
  5. Add sugar all at once. Stir mixture until sugar is dissolved.
  6. Bring to a full, rolling boil. Once boiling, boil for 1 minute, stirring the whole time.
  7. Remove the pot from the heat. Skim foam if necessary.
  8. Using your ladle and the funnel, pour the hot mixture into the prepared jars one at a time. Be sure to leave 1/4 inch headspace. Insert chopstick and press against side in a couple of places; this is to dislodge any air pockets.
  9. Wipe the rims with a clean, damp cloth. Even a small amount of jam mixture on the lid can lead to a seal failure.
  10. Place bands on jar and tighten until you feel some resistance. Do not overtighten—the bands are to keep the lids in place.
  11. Place jars in the canner, making sure that the jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes (if at elevations higher than 1000 ft/305 meters, you will need to adjust the boiling time based on your elevation).
  12. Turn off the heat and remove the lid. Let jars rest in canner for 5 minutes.
  13. Remove jars to a clean towel on your counter.
  14. Test seals after 24 hours. You can test by pushing down on the lid—if it pops up and down, the seal is bad. You can also test seals by removing the bands and trying to lift the jar by the lid. Obviously, if the lid pops off, the seal has failed! If you so have a bad seal, just store your jam in the refrigerator; it will be safe to eat.

Classic Strawberry Jam (without added pectin)

This recipe, from Put ‘Em Up by Sherry Brooks Vinton (another good book for beginning canners) has much less sugar than the recipe with pectin. Again, this recipe can be halved. The full recipe makes 4 cups. Classic jam will take longer and will require you to monitor the mixture for gelling. Once the gel stage is reached, you can fill the sterilized jars and proceed with lidding and the boiling water bath.

What You’ll Need

  • 4 8-oz jars, plus bands and lids
  • large nonreactive pot, such as a saucepan, stockpot, or soup pot
  • canner that can hold at least 4 filled jars
  • jar lifter, jar magnet, funnel, chopstick or plastic knife, and headspace-measuring tool
  • jar rack or cake cooling rack that can fit inside the canner
  • large wooden spoon for stirring
  • ladle

Ingredients

  • 8 cups strawberries, washed, drained, stemmed, and halved
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup bottled lemon juice (for consistent acidity)

Making the Jam

  1. READ THE RECIPE
  2. Prepare your jars, lids, and bands (instructions can be found here)
  3. Place your berries in a bowl, add the sugar, cover, and allow the berries to macerate for 6 hours up to overnight. This will draw out the juices.
  4. Place strawberries in a large pot and bring to a boil.
  5. Cook and continue to stir the mixture, crushing the berries with a wooden spoon.
  6. Cook until the jam reaches gel stage (I use the chilled plate test for this—it’s detailed at the end of this recipe); this can take 20-30 minutes or even more.
  7. Remove the pot from the heat. Let rest for about 5 minutes, then skim off foam if necessary.
  8. Using your ladle and the funnel, pour the hot mixture into the prepared jars one at a time. Leave ¼ inch headspace. Insert chopstick and press against side in a couple of places; this is to dislodge any air pockets.
  9. Wipe the rims with a clean, damp cloth. Even a small amount of jam mixture on the lid can lead to a seal failure.
  10. Place bands on jar and tighten until you feel some resistance. Do not overtighten—the bands are to keep the lids in place.
  11. Place jars in the canner, making sure that the jars are covered by at least 1 inch of water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes (if at elevations higher than 1000 ft/305 meters, you will need to adjust the boiling time based on your elevation).
  12. Turn off the heat and remove the lid. Let jars rest in canner for 5 minutes.
  13. Remove jars to a clean towel on your counter.
  14. Test seals after 24 hours. You can test by pushing down on the lid—if it pops up and down, the seal is bad. You can also test seals by removing the bands and trying to lift the jar by the lid. Obviously, if the lid pops off, the seal has failed! If you so have a bad seal, just store your jam in the refrigerator; it will be safe to eat.

The Chilled Plate Gel Test

Before starting the recipe (even before sterilizing your equipment), place 2 or 3 small plates in your freezer. When your are ready to test for gel stage, place a small amount (1 teaspoon or even less) of your jam mixture onto a chilled plate. Let it cool. Then push the mound of jam with your finger. You have reached gel stage if the jam wrinkles when you push it.

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Better Living through Can-icals: More on Canning with Ball&#174

Although the Ball Corporation no longer manufactures the well known mason jars, the Ball name is still very much associated with canning (and America’s recent canning boom!) Now licensed to Jarden Home Brands (with a large corporate presence in Daleville, Indiana, about 12 miles southwest of Muncie), the brand is not only a name on a jar, but also an appellation on boxes of lids and containers of pectin. And then there’s the Ball Blue Book, a veritable starter bible for neophyte canners, with its clear instructions, diverse recipes, solid reference, and, very importantly, low price (the “book” is really like a thick magazine).1

CanningBounty2

A sample of canning bounty: pickled green beans in pint jar, strawberry-vanilla jam in 8-oz jar, radish relish in 4-oz jars

So, let’s talk about pectin. What is it, exactly? Well, it’s a structural element found in plants that acts as a gelling agent during canning (nutritionally, it’s also a form of soluble fiber). I won’t delve into the chemistry and biology, because that is beyond the scope of this post (and the post’s author). Suffice it to say that pectin—which occurs naturally in varying proportions, depending on the plant—is a necessary component in the gelling process, and, thus, required for making jams, jellies, preserves, marmalades, and conserves. The pectin used by canners may be present in the fruit itself. Some fruits, such as apples and quinces, are naturally high in pectin. Others, like peaches, have lower amounts; as such, many canners use added pectin to speed up gelling. I can both with and without added pectin recipes; I’ll include a couple of simple jam recipes later.

So, is there a difference? In my own not-terribly-humble opinion, I’ve had success with both ways. No-added-pectin jams do take longer and some complain that they have a more “cooked” taste, but my strawberry, blueberry, and sour cherry jams, which are simply cooked down to the preferred gel stage, taste delicious. But I prefer the brightness of peach jam with the added pectin, as peach flavor seems to wash out a bit with long cooking.

Ball&#174 pectins are available in a variety of “styles”—regular powdered, liquid, low/no sugar, instant. And while this may post may seem like an advertisement, remember that we’re talking about a brand made famous in the Flyover States! So, while there are other pectins out there, I’m sticking with Ball&#174!

Pectin

A trio of Ball products

1The full title is the Ball Blue Book&#174 Guide to Preserving and it addresses not only canning—both boiling water and pressure–but also freezing and dehydrating. I think this is the best introduction to canning for the novice and, for less than ten dollars, not a huge investment should canning not be your thing.

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Ball Canning Jars—Introducing a Flyover Institution

I’d bet if you asked average people or, in Lake Wobegon, above-average people, to describe the typical activities of Midwestern women, there would be a good chance that “canning” would appear on someone’s list. Midwesterners are all farmers, right? And farmers’ wives can the bounty of their gardens, putting up for the winter, right?

Well, let me clarify some points here. First, there ARE many farmers in Flyover County (Midwest and Plains), but the population is, nonetheless, largely urban. In fact, of the US states that have rural-majority populations (i.e. urban populations LESS than 50%), not one is in the Flyover States.1 Maine (38.7%), Vermont (38.9%), West Virginia (48.7%), and Mississippi (49.4%) are outside Flyoverlandia. Second, yes—lots of Flyoverians can. As do many in other parts of the United States (and the world!) In fact, Brooklyn (you know, that borough of New York that is rapidly becoming New York City’s Billionaire Playground Number Two) seems to require new residents to either can artisanal pickles or be in a band. So canning—which I do—is not limited to the middle of the country. Across the country, many of us are channeling our inner farm wives to produce and preserve the fruits of our (or someone else’s) labor—hot Hungarian pepper slices from my garden, relish from radishes found at the farmers market, local and organic strawberries transformed into a jam enhanced with vanilla. Yes we can.

BUT, there IS a Flyover Connection to modern-day canning—the Ball&#174 Mason jar. The Ball Brothers (George, Lucius, Edmund, William, and Frank) did not invent home canning jars (that distinction belongs to Philadelphia-area tinsmith John Landis Mason), but they were largely responsible for producing and popularizing them. The five brothers went into business together in 1880, buying a company and manufacturing metal cans before switching to glass jars after the expiration of Mason’s patent on the technology. Originally, the factory was located in Buffalo, New York. A desire to expand and take advantage of East Central Indiana’s gas boom sent the brothers to Muncie, Indiana; to entice the Balls to set up a factory in Muncie, the local community sweetened the deal by offering land, a gas well, and railroad access. The rest is history (well, everything up until then was history too).

Ball Corporation, which eventually went public in the early 1970s, was headquartered in Muncie until 1998, when it decamped for Broomfield, Colorado. And today, Ball no longer manufactures the iconic fruit jars, instead having licensed the brand to Jarden Home Brands. In fact, Ball Corporation is now a part of the aerospace industry, not the headspace2 industry. But for many of us here in Flyover County, canning means Ball!

1Source: 2010 Decennial Census, United States Bureau of the Census

2Headspace refers to the space between the food and the top of the jar required during the canning process. This is necessary to allow for expansion while the can is in a boiling water bath. Too little headspace may interfere with the sealing process and/or may result in the jar’s contents seeping.

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Foodie Paradise? Cincinnati’s Jungle Jim’s!

A ”Welcome Foodies” sign greets visitors to the entrance of Jungle Jim’s, a sort of supermarket-on-steroids. Upon entering, you are welcomed by an animatronic ear-of-corn and stick-of-butter. Pass those and you are ready to shop. And gawk. With wares running the gamut from Lucky Charms cereals to Mini Marshmallow Peeps to imported Polish butter to local artisanal cheese to hundreds of hot sauces to chicken feet to…you get the picture. This Ohio Flyover Find is a store that has almost everything you need, culinary-wise, under a single roof. I say “almost”, because on my most recent trip, they were out of the Thomy Mittelsharf German mustard and the particular butter from Normandy I wanted. But I still found plenty to peruse!

JJEntrance

Just another day in (Foodie) paradise
JJCornNButter
Jungle Jim’s–where sticks of butter wear lipstick

Let’s understand exactly what Jungle Jim’s has to offer. In addition to your standard supermarket fare, they offer an incredible array of cheeses from countries around the world (identified by signs) as well as artisanal American cheeses. Butter Island, a refrigerated case of butter from France, Poland, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, and regional producers in the United States. A vast selection of meats and animal parts (yes, the odd parts, such as pork hearts, the aforementioned chicken feet, beef hooves, and, incredibly, entire shrinkwrapped heads of pigs. (Warning! Clicking on the link will open a picture of an actual pig’s head in the meat case.). Enough candy to bedazzle an entire elementary school, all at once. Much produce, including unusual Asian and Caribbean offerings. And, the big draw for moi, the international aisles.

You know how the average supermarket has an international section (or, more likely, just part of an aisle) that is mostly soy sauces, rice noodles, salsas, and cans of Mexican Nestle milk? Jungle Jim’s is not like that. At. All. There isn’t an Asian section—there is a Chinese section. A Japanese section. A Taiwanese section. A Malaysian section. A Filipino section. A Hawaiian section. A Thai section. And that’s just pan-Asia! There’s a German section, Hungarian section, Polish section, English section, Italian section. There are aisles full of African and Caribbean foods. There are also little rooms set up like storefronts for Scandinavia, Greece, France, Spain, and the Netherlands. There’s a Kosher products room. And smack dab in the middle of this is a bus filled with hot sauces and chiles, as well as a cookware shop. It’s like a school trip to a far tastier UN building (and Jungle Jim’s also runs tours for school kids, as well as regular tourists).

What else? A cooking school. Special events, such as a Cheese Fest and an International Beer Fest. Beers and wines. And a Starbucks. Of course.

There are two locations in the Cincinnati area: in Fairfield at 5440 Dixie Highway (the original) and a newer location at 4450 Eastgate South Drive in Cincinnati.

JJExit

The “Jungle” part of Jungle Jim’s
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Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream—for 2-4 people

Roasting intensifies the flavors of many ingredients, including strawberries. Tossing them with a small amount of sugar brings out some of the juices while still retaining texture; too much sugar may result in a syrupy mess.

This recipe makes approximately 2 cups of ice cream. So many ice cream recipes make a quart or more—too much for 1 and 2-person households! Indeed, single-person households–by choice–are a growing phenomenon in the United States (read Eric Klinenberg’s excellent Going Solo for insight into this trend). In this spirit, I’ve created this recipe (using my local organic strawberries!) so that those of you in small households don’t have so much ice cream hanging around the house. With a smaller amount, you can try new flavors more often! That said, this recipe can be doubled.

What You’ll Need

  • baking sheet with a lip (NOT flat)
  • parchment paper or silicone mat
  • measuring spoons and liquid measuring cup
  • saucepan
  • several bowls
  • whisk
  • fine-mesh strainer
  • spoons and spatulas
  • ice cream maker

NOTE: If you have an ice cream maker with a separate canister that must be frozen, PLACE IT IN THE FREEZER AT LEAST 24 HOURS BEFORE YOU PLAN TO FREEZE THE ICE CREAM. Trust me on this. Cold, creamy strawberry “soup” may taste delicious, but it ain’t ice cream!

Ingredients and Instructions for the Roasted Strawberries

  • 1 to 1.25 cups strawberries, washed, dried, hulled, and quartered (preferably organic)
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  1. Preheat oven (or toaster oven) to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Place parchment or silicone mat on lipped baking sheet.
  3. In a small bowl, toss the strawberries with the sugar.
  4. Spread the strawberries onto the baking sheet.
  5. Roast for 10-12 minutes. Stir. Roast for 10-12 more minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and place the strawberries, plus accumulated juices, into a bowl (the original bowl is fine and leaves you with one less to wash!)
  7. With a fork, mash up the berries a bit. This need not be a puree, but you don’t want only discrete chunks.

Ingredients and Instructions for the Base and Ice Cream

  • 1 cup heavy cream, divided (I like Organic Valley heavy cream)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (I especially like Traders Point Creamery Cream Top whole milk, from Zionsville, Indiana)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 duck egg yolks (or 3 chicken egg yolks)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • roasted strawberries from above
  1. In a saucepan, heat up the milk, sugar, and ½ cup of the cream, whisking constantly. Do not let the mixture boil. When warm (i.e. you can see steam coming off the whisk when you lift it up) remove from heat.
  2. Scrape out the seeds from the vanilla bean. Add them AND the bean to the warm milk mixture. Cover and let steep for 20-30 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, place the yolks in a bowl and whisk together.
  4. After steeping, add a ladle of the warm milk mixture to the egg yolks and whisk in. Do the same with another ladleful. The idea is to slowly bring the yolks to the milk mixture temperature without cooking them. Then slowly add the rest of the milk mixture to the yolks, whisking continuously.
  5. Scrape the entire mixture back into the saucepan. Over moderate heat, cook this custard (that’s what it is, folks!) When it is thick enough for the coat-the-back-of-metal-spoon test 1, remove from heat.
  6. Put the rest of the cream into a bowl. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh strainer into the same bowl. Stir this so that the cream and custard are well incorporated together. Let cool for 10 minutes. You can rinse off the vanilla bean and use it to make vanilla sugar (just bury it into some sugar) or vanilla coffee (put it into your coffee before you brew it). Or, if you’re like me, you can lick it off (that vanilla-custard combo is delicious!), dry it off, and put it in a container marked PERSONAL USE ONLY—CONTAMINATED WITH COOTIES
  7. Take your strawberry mash and mix it into the custard. Stir so that it is well incorporated.
  8. Cover and let cool in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  9. Remove from refrigerator and give the custard a good stir to make sure the strawberries are well mixed into the custard. Freeze the ice cream according to the directions of your ice cream maker’s manufacturer. When finished, it will be of a soft-serve consistency.

    Strawberry ice cream dasher

    Licking the dasher is the job of the cook!
    I think it tastes best then, but you will probably want to ripen it further, so it’s scoop-able. Place the ice cream in a container, then freeze for several hours until it hardens. Enjoy!

Strawberry Ice Cream

A fine dessert. Or breakfast.
1The test: dip a metal spoon into the custard mixture. Using your finger, draw a line down the spoon lengthwise. If you can see the metal and the line doesn’t fill in, your custard is thick enough. The custard will thicken further in the refrigerator.

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