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In Canning and Food Preservation/ Easy Healthy Recipes

Strawberry Jam Recipe

This strawberry jam recipe is a great first jam recipe if you’ve never made jams, preservers, or jellies before. You can use strawberries from your garden if you are growing strawberry plants or purchase strawberries at the farmer’s market or supermarket.

strawberry jam recipe

Making Strawberry Jam: The Basics

Strawberry jam contains strawberries, sugar (a lot of sugar), powdered pectin, and lemon juice. That’s it. Allow about two hours from the start to the finish to make strawberry jam.

You will need a hot water bath canner. This is a large pot with a tight-fitting lid and an insert that keeps the canning jars off of the bottom of the can. It allows water to circulate freely around the jars. Fill the canner with water so that it will cover the tops of the jars by at least 1 – 2 inches.

I use the Ball Canning Accessory kit and love it. It has a special funnel to keep the jam from spilling when I spoon it into the jars, a special set of tongs to hold hot jars, and other tools such as a magnetic lid lifter.

You will need a large, heavy stock pot in which to cook up the strawberry jam recipe and a small pot with water to heat up the lids.

I use a piece of scrap board to keep my hot jars off of the granite countertop in my kitchen and a large cutting board as my work space.

Jars for Strawberry Jam: Use Canning Jars

Always use proper “canning jars” or glass jars made for preserving foods when canning produce or making jams, jellies, and preserves. I prefer Ball (R) brand jars but have used others as well. You will need 8 half pint jars; these are sold at most major stores nationwide including large “big box” stores, grocery stories and the like.

If this is the first set of jars you’re buying, they come with the full lid. Lids consist of two parts: a screw-on band and a flat lid with a seal on it. When you open your final jam jars, you break the seal. Y

ou can re-use the rings and the glass jars for future canning projects but the flat part must be replaced after you are finished enjoying the contents of the jars. You can’t use the flat lid for another canning project later on.

Replacement lids are sold separately and are inexpensive, about $2 or less for a pack of 12.

The last pieces of equipment are common kitchen items you should have on hand: a sharp knife, a colander, a cutting board, measuring cups, and a manual potato masher. A potato masher? Yes, I’ll explain that part in a bit.

My Secret Strawberry Jam Tool: A Drinking Straw

Here’s my secret tool: a plain old drinking straw. Make sure you have one on hand. It will be a BIG time saver!

Strawberry Jam Recipe

The following ingredients will make 8 half-pint jars of jam. This is a simple strawberry jam recipe.

Four cups of fresh strawberries.

Seven cups of sugar

1/4 cup of lemon juice

6 tablespoons of Classic Pectin

 

First, get all your equipment out. Set the canning pot on the stove and fill it with the water you’ll need. Wash the canning jars and lids and fill the empty, clean jars with water. Submerse them in the canning pot and gently heat the water while you work.

Place the screw bands on a plate separately.

Place the flat lids in the small pot with water.  These will be heated when you make the jam and before placing them on the containers.

Now, wash off the strawberries and place the clean ones in a colander. I sit at the kitchen table to hull and cut the strawberries up. I place the clean berries in the colander and use the empty saucepan where I plan to cook the jam for my hulled and cut berries.

To prepare the strawberries:

  • Cut the tops off
  • Use the straw to hull each strawberry. Insert it into the core of the strawberry and push it through. When the straw is full of cores, simply squeeze them out over the trash! (Told you this was a huge time saver. You can also core them by hand, but the straw method is so much faster.)
  • Slice strawberries into quarters or for very large berries, smaller pieces.
  • Continue until all the fruit has been prepared.
  • Place the tops and hulls/cores into the compost pile.

 

Now place the sauce pan full of berries over the stove and heat gently. While the berries are heating, use your potato masher to mash them up good. Make sure they are all smushy and smashed!

Add the lemon juice and continue smashing.

Turn the heat on HIGH on the burner to bring the mix to a boil.

Now, stir in the pectin, one tablespoon at a time, stirring until the liquid comes to a full boil. Once it boils, stir in the sugar all at once, and keep stirring. You may need a potholder on your hand because the spoon becomes hot.

Bring the mix to a hard, rolling boil such that you can’t stir it down – it keeps boiling. Boil for one full minute, stirring constantly.

Warm up the jar lids now in the water. Just turn on the heat on low and let them get warm. There is no need to boil them.

Turn off the heat. Carefully remove the jars from the water bath canner, tipping the water back into the canner. Place the empty jars on the board. Use your funnel and ladle the jam liquid into each jar. Skim the foam off the jam mix before spooning it into the jars if there’s a lot of it.

Leave 1/2 inch of space between the top of the jam and the top of the lid.

These jars are filled and ready to be wiped before placing the flat lids and screw bands. Flat lids are heating in the silver pot on the stove in the upper left.

When each jar is full, use a damp paper towel and wipe off any spilled jam from the jars. Use your magnetic lid lifter tool to lift out each warmed jar lid onto each clean rim of the filled half pint jar.

Screw the screw band lid onto the jar by hand. You don’t need them super tight; just as tight as you can naturally make them.

Place each filled jar with the lid screwed on back into the hot water bath canner. When all the jars are in the water, put the lid on the canning pot and raise the temperature until the water boils.

Process the batch of jam jars for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the lid, let the pot sit for 10 minutes before removing each jar carefully, using a jar lifter tool. Let them cool on a board for 24 hours. Label, date and enjoy!

strawberry jam recipe

Finished jam.

 

Make sure your jars are sealed. In the center of the metal lid is a button that’s pushed up when you place it on the jars. When the jars seal, the change in pressure pushes the button IN and the jar makes a hissing or PINGing sound.

If you are in doubt about whether a jar has sealed properly or not, put it in the fridge and enjoy it within two weeks of creating your strawberry jam batch.

For more information about canning, speak with your local Cooperative Extension office. My favorite resource for canning in the Ball Book of Home Preserving and I highly recommend it. This is the book that I used to teach myself how to make jams, jellies, and can vegetables. You can, too.

Enjoy!

MORE RESOURCES FOR STRAWBERRIES – GROWING STRAWBERRIES

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3 In Canning and Food Preservation/ Easy Healthy Recipes

Recipe for Lemon Parsley Jelly

Have you ever looked at your herb garden and wondered what you would do with all of that parsley?

Aside from feeding these guys: (Eastern swallowtail butterfly caterpillar)

caterpillar on parsley

Parsley is often used as a garnish but it offers tremendous nutrition. Contained within its leafy green leaves is a blend of vitamin K and vitamin C, folate, and iron. Its volatile oils include myristicin, limonene, eugenol, and alpha-thujene. Its flavonoids include apiin, apigenin, crisoeriol, and luteolin. What does that mean to you? It means an herb that acts as a nutritive and diuretic herb.

I’ve stir-fried parsley into dishes calling for leafy greens with excellent results. I’ve also added it to salads, but the same volatile oils that give it such a strong scent also give it a strong flavor when it’s eaten raw. It’s not everyone favorite flavor.

What to do, then, when you have an abundance of parsley? Our ancestors made savory jams and jellies to flavor their foods throughout the winter months. Jellies and jams were also served the way that we would serve a dessert, simply placed in a  little cup with a dab of cream on top.

Parlsey-lemon jelly is similar to the recipe that I made a few weeks ago for cranberry-basil jelly. It uses a strong infusion of parsley, along with a fruit juice, sugar, and pectin, to make a sweet and savory jelly that, when tinted with a bit of green food coloring, would make a wonderful Christmas gift!

Here is the recipe that I used to make this batch of lemon-parsley jelly. As with the cranberry-basil jelly, the recipe is inspired, with many updates, from the book Herbs with Confidence by Bertha Reppert.

lemon parsley jelly

Recipe for Lemon Parsley Jelly

This recipe makes about eight half-pint jars of jelly. Have a hot water bath canner ready along with clean jars, new lids, and jar sealing rings, along with your favorite set of canning tools.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups of boiling water
  • 1 to 2 cups of fresh, chopped parsley
  • 4 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh or bottled pure lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons of powdered classic fruit pectin
  • 4-6 drops of green food coloring

First, make an infusion of parsley. To do this, clean and chop the parsley into a large heat-safe bowl. Boil water. Pour boiling water over the parsley in the bowl. Put a heat-safe lid on the bowl. Let sit for 15 minutes. Strain and save the water, placing the parsley into your composting bin. The water is now an herbal infusion which will form the base of the jelly.

Pour 3 cups of the parsley infusion into a heavy saucepan, turn the heat on high, and add the lemon juice and pectin.  Stir constantly until the mixture comes to a full boil. Add the sugar and keep stirring. Bring it back to a full boil and add the food coloring. Boil it hard for one full minute. Then, turn off the heat. Skim the foam from the top. Pour the jelly mixture into jars, placing lids and rings on them and tighten the screw bands. Place filled jars into the canning pot and when the water in the canning pot comes to a full boil, process for 10 minutes. Allow to stand in pot after lid is removed after 10 minutes, then remove the jars to a heat-safe space to enable the seals to set. Check seals. Date and label, and allow to cool. Enjoy!

lemon parsley jelly

Finished lemon parsley jelly

 

herbal jelly

Doesn’t this look pretty? Lemon-parsley jelly, left; cranberry-basil jelly, right.

 

 

2 In Canning and Food Preservation/ Easy Healthy Recipes/ Herb Garden

Cranberry Basil Jelly Recipe

What do you do when you’re drowing in basil? That’s how I described the bounty from my garden this past week. The cinnamon basil didn’t grow, the holy basil didn’t grow, but the Genovese basil? Abundant, beautiful, silky, emerald green, bee-attracting bushes everywhere in my garden.

When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. And when life hands you an abundance of basil, you get creative…and make jelly out of it. Here, my first attempt at making an herbal jelly and the recipe for cranberry basil jelly.

Warning: it’s addictive. And delicious.

Basil from the Summer Herb Garden

I planted flats of basil seedlings this spring, unsure if the seeds would germinate. It was an older package of seeds that I hadn’t bothered to date, and it was already open. Sometimes, older seeds don’t germinate as well as fresh seeds.

In this case, the basil did germinate. I had so many plants that I tucked them in everywhere in the raised bed vegetable garden as well as throughout my flower garden. I figured that if they grew well in the flower garden, the bees would enjoy them. Bees love basil.

The abundance of basil this year meant that I could share it with friends, dry plenty of it for winter use, and experiment with many recipes I’ve earmarked to try when the herbs were finally ready.

I found a great herb book called Herbs with Confidence through the Paperback Swap Club I belong to. I took a chance and ordered it since I enjoy collecting herb books. This little paperback, dated 1986 and with the last printing date of 1990, features inspiration quotes, growing information, and herbs with recipes.

The recipe I was drawn to was one for herbal jelly. I knew you could make mint jelly, of course. What’s a roast lamb without mint jelly? But I did not know you could make jellies out of parsley, basil, lemon balm, thyme, and other herbs.

I decided to make the herbal jelly recipe from this book and use some of that basil from the garden.

Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

Adapting Older Recipes to Modern Knowledge

The recipe Bertha Reppert includes in the book is an older one. I have found similar ones in cookbooks and documents dating back to around 1864, and herbal jellies seemed to have been popular during the Victorian era.

It’s a vague recipe, however, in that the Reppert doesn’t specify a lot of very important information. For example, she says to use “one bottle of liquid pectin.” How big a bottle? Three ounces, six ounces, eight, ten, a hundred? Who knows?

She also does not include canning information but instead recommends pouring the jelly into jelly jars and sealing with paraffin. According to what I have read, that type of canning was popular in the early 20th century and prior to 1900 but faded out of use around 1960 or 1970. New, metal canning lids have seals that last longer and are safer to use.

Aside from those two problems, I also had the problem of what to use as the base for the jelly. The original recipe makes jelly out of water infusion of basil, but I wanted more flavor and color and I don’t like using artificial color. Reppert suggested substituting cranberry juice. There’s just one catch; did she mean all natural cranberry juice or is cranberry juice cocktail aka Ocean Spray cranberry juice cocktail an acceptable substitution?

Deep breath…I decided to adapt the recipe to what I had on hand. The book I’m always raving about, the  Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, came to my rescue. The recipe for mint jelly in that book calls for 10 minutes of water bath processing, so I opted for that.

The best book on canning and home preserving – ever. 

I also opted for the Ocean Spray cranberry juice cocktail. We’d stocked up on bottles of it when it was on sale since my family likes it.

As for the liquid pectin, I had to make an educated guess. I purchased it in pouches since that was the only type of liquid pectin I could find. Each pouch was three ounces. I doubled the recipe to use up more basil, so I decided to use both pouches.

Ready? Here’s the recipe for cranberry basil jelly.

Recipe for Cranberry Basil Jelly

To make this jelly, you will need a water bath canner and eight-pint canning jars with new lids. I found extra larger 12-ounce jelly jars on sale, so I used six of those.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of fresh basil leaves, rinsed
  • 5 cups of cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1/2 cup of white vinegar
  • 8 cups of sugar
  • 6 ounces (two pouches) of liquid pectin

 

Place the washed basil leaves in a large ceramic bowl. Bring the cranberry juice to a boil in a separate pot, then pour it over the basil leaves. Place a lid or a dinner plate over the top of the bowl and let it steep for 15 – 30 minutes.

When the time is finished, remove the cover and strain the herbs out, reserving all the cranberry juice. It is now infused with the basil. Pour the cranberry juice infusion into a large saucepan. Add the vinegar and sugar, and cook it on high heat until all the sugar dissolves.

As soon as the mixture boils, add the liquid pectin and stir constantly. Keep stirring and boil it hard for one minute, stirring constantly. It’s going to foam up but that’s okay. You’ll deal with that later.

When the time is up, turn off the heat. Quickly skim off the foam. Pour the jelly mixture into canning jars, wipe the rims, and place the lids. Tighten screw band lids to finger-tight. Place in a hot water bath canner with at least one inch of water covering the tops of the lids. Place the lid on your canning pot and turn up the heat, following the directions in your favorite canning book (see above) for water bath canning procedures and safety.

Processing time is 10 minutes at a full boil. When the time is up, uncover the canning pot and wait five minutes before using a jar lifter to remove the jars. Let cool, label, and store for up to a year.

cranberry basil jelly

This jar is an antique jar without a seal. I put this one into the refrigerator. The jars behind it are apples from my orchard, which I canned before working on the jelly recipe.

cranberry basil jelly

Cranberry basil jelly poured into Ball canning jars with modern seals. These are ready for the hot water bath canner.

Using Cranberry Basil Jelly

Like pepper jelly, cranberry basil jelly is a savory jelly. Americans have lost their taste for savory jellies. We like sweet foods and savory jellies may seem strange to our palate.

I spooned the jelly onto Ritz crackers and enjoyed it with a glass of iced tea. You could also spread it on fancy breads, water crackers, or saltines for a delicious treat.

cranberry basil jelly

It’s tea time! A treat fit for a queen.

The taste is a great layering of flavors. First is the sweet taste of cranberry, followed the vinegar tartness. Lingering on the tongue is the taste of basil, the lush swan song of the summer herb garden.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this recipe for cranberry basil jelly. I also experimented with making herbal basil salt, which I will share with you in an upcoming recipe.

Happy gardening! Keep growing!

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2 In Canning and Food Preservation

How to Can Peaches

how to can peaches

I learned how to can peaches from the Ball Book of Home Preserving, a cookbook I recommend to those interested in learning how to can and preserve fresh garden produce.  Yesterday, Hubby helped me can peaches, and we were able to preserve nine pints. Here’s how to can peaches and enjoy them all year long!

How to Can Peaches

We have four Elberta peach trees growing in our orchard. Three are nine years old; one is a replacement for a tree we thought was dying and moved to another location, where it flourished and now appears to be dying again.

Elberta is a yellow-fleshed clingstone peach. It’s better for canning than fresh eating, although we do have our ritual pick and eat the first peach of the season. We slice up the peach and enjoy it fresh from the tree before setting down to harvesting and canning peaches.

peach tree

 

Only two out of the four trees in the orchard are bearing fruit this year. One isn’t ripe yet; the other, above, is about half-ready to be picked. We decided to space out canning peaches this year because it is labor intensive.

How to Can Peaches: Step 1 – Choose the Best Fruits

The first step is to harvest the peaches. You should choose the best fruits from the tree for preserving. We did not spray our trees this year, and both the Japanese beetles and June bugs are taking their toll on the trees. Some of the fruit is half-rotted as you can see in the picture, below. The peach on the lower left is half brown. I used the ripe half and threw out the bad half.

 

Picking peaches and timing it so that you outwit deer, June bugs, and every other creature on earth who enjoys fresh peaches is more of an art than a science. We keep track each year of approximately when we pick and can fresh fruit so we have a rough idea of when they will be ready. Despite what the books and Cooperative Extension websites tell you, each garden, orchard, and tree is unique. The books may say that Elbert peaches are ready in late July but ours are always ripe between July 4  and July 20.

We pick only as many peaches as we can preserve at a time. They don’t last very long in the bushel baskets and any bruised fruit or fruit with insect damage will rot quickly.

Fruit should be orange, peach, or golden color. Fruit with a green tint to it is still unripe.

We pick about 2/3 of a bushel basket, which yielded nine pints of canned peaches. I didn’t discard any whole fruit from the basket but some, like the example in the picture above, could not be used in its entirety.

Rocky, one of our cats, helped me sort the peaches.

 

Step 2: Prepare the Canner, Jars & Lids

Canning peaches requires a hot water bath canner. Get your canner set up with water and racks. Wash the jars with hot, soapy water and prepare the lids and rings. (For more details, see the Ball Big Book of Home Preserving.)

Step 3: Wash, Blanch, Peel & Slice

Now the fun part: peeling the peaches. It’s sticky, messy, but rewarding.

Get a pot of boiling water ready and a pot of ice water. Wash peaches under the tap, then carefully put a few in the boiling water for about 1-2 minutes. Then, remove them with a slotted spoon and pop them right into the ice water. Ripe peaches peel immediately and easy when you use this method. Peaches that are under ripe will peel more easily with a vegetable peeler.

Peel the peaches, then slice them away from the pit. Slice into the desired lengths and sizes for canning. Put any bruised, damaged, or rotten flesh into the compost bin along with your peach peels and pits.

Immerse the sliced peaches in a bowl of cold water. Mix 1/4 cup of lemon juicce and 4 cups of cold water together and cover your peaches in the bowl with this mixture. It prevents browning.

Keep blanching and peeling the batch of peaches until you’re done. It took us an hour with two people working side by side to tackle this task!

Step 4: Make the Syrup

Canned peaches should be canned in a sugar syrup mixture. My recipe calls for 3 1/2 cups of sugar to six cups of water. Place the sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan, then pour in the water. Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved.

Step 5:  Peaches and Syrup in Jars

Using hot jars and a pair of canning tongs, remove the hot jars from the canning pot and dump the water out. Then, place each jar on your work surface. I use a wooden cutting board to protect my granite countertops.

Use a slotted spoon and a funnel and spoon the peaches into the jars. Then, fill each jar with the syrup. Leave 1/2 inch of space at the top or headroom.

When all the jars are filled, use a slotted spoon or a canning tool to remove the air bubbles. Gently heat new canning lids.

Step 6:  Canning Time

Take a damp paper towel and clean the rim of each jar before placing a new canning lid onto each. Then place the screw band lid and tighten it by hand.

Use your jar lifter to gently place each jar into the canning pot. Make sure the jars are on a rack – do not let them touch the bottom of the pot or they may break from the heat.

Be sure that there is adequate water covering the top of the jars, or about an inch or so. Check the USDA’s food preservation website or the Ball Big Book of Home Preserving for details. You need adequate water and steam to properly can foods.

When all the jars are in the canning bath, place the lid and turn up the heat until the canner is boiling steadily. Then lower the heat to gently boil it.  Canning time for pints of peaches is 30 minutes.

When the time has passed, remove the lid and wait 5 to 10 minutes before removing the jars using your jar lifter. Place them on a wooden cutting board or another protected surface while they are cooling.

Listen for the PING of the jar lids sealing and check each jar. If a jar doesn’t seal properly, you can enjoy it now – just put the cooled jar of peaches into the refrigerator and eat within a week.

Label and date each jar. Most of the new Ball lids have a spot on them to write in the date. I use a Sharpie marker to date them.

Add the finished jars to your pantry. Congratulations – you’ve just learned how to can peaches!

 

Problems Canning Peaches?

If you have problems while learning how to can peaches, check with your local Cooperative Extension site, the USDA food preservation website, or a reputable cookbook.

My own jars spilled syrup everywhere while cooling. I had to research for a while to learn what happened. They cooled too quickly, which allowed the boiling syrup to escape before the jar sealed. Messy, but still usable. We washed each jar under the tap and dried it with a clean dish towel before storing it.

how to can peaches

The peaches floated to the top, as you can see in the picture, above. This is common and probably happened because the peaches weren’t heated enough prior to placing them inside the jars.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into my process for canning peaches. It is labor intensive, but I love the work, and I especially love the feeling of what’s dubbed ‘food security’ – knowing where my food comes from (the tree about 100 yards from my house), how it was grown (because I grew it), and how it was preserved (because I preserved it.) Seeing the jars of food lined up in my pantry always gives me a feeling of self-sufficiency. I wish you could feel that, too. It’s a wonderful, happy thing.

Keep growing!