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Monday, July 9, 2012

"Preserving" Summer - Fresh Strawberry and Sour Cherry Jam

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Remember these from last week? or how about these?
  Last Monday morning, I went to one of our local farmer's markets where vendors from Michigan sell their produce. It's a really good thing that I did! I was able to get the last of the Michigan strawberries for preserves! Since I was going to be slaving over large pots of steaming water in the 100 degree plus heat having a free facial anyway, I decided to grab some sour cherries and make cherry preserves too!

The recipes and process are very similar. The most time consuming and tedious part is pitting the cherries and hulling the strawberries.  My dad taught me a trick to hull the strawberries using a plastic straw.


Easy peasy! Pitting cherries, however, is another story. The recipe that I use calls for a cherry pitting tool.  Well, I don't have one and I'm certainly not going to buy one to make preserves once a year!  I've tried several methods for removing the pits. I even tried using a plastic straw to push the pits out the other side of the cherry. I mean, what the heck, it works for strawberries, right!? Well, let me tell you, it's not the same with the cherries. I'm sure that it can be done but it's a job for trained professionals, in a controlled environment. You know, like those drivers in the car commercials who navigate winding roads at high speeds without a problem while I have difficulty making it to the market and finding a spot to park without running over anyone!?  Do not attempt to remove cherry pits using a straw at home. You'll end up with cherry juice all over your shirt...and walls and cabinets. Just stick with pitting them by hand, no tools, trust me.
 It only takes a few ingredients and it's as easy as boiling water. Fruit with some sugar and lemon juice.

Everything gets boiled...the fruit, the jars, the lids. The person doing the canning gets a free facial. Seriously, if canning came with a massage and a pedicure, I'd do it once a week!

 Same process with the cherries, more steam, free facial. Heck, by the end of the morning, my skin had been steamed and my pores were so clean that I looked like I was in my 20's. (Yeah, like a 20-something  who needed a haircut and some highlights and who likes to wear clothes with cherry and strawberry juice all over them.)

While the miraculous effects of the steam wore off before anyone but me could witness them, the preserves will last through the winter and into next spring (by which time I'm hoping to  figure out a way to make the cosmetic benefits last a bit longer).


Canning Tools:

  • Large enamel canning pot
  • Glass jars with rings and seals. My Grandma used to use melted wax but, really!? I find that the screw on lids are easier and it makes it easier to store in the 'fridge after they're opened.
  • Regular tongs for removing lids from boiling water. 
  • Cool "gripper thing" to pick up the hot jars with (that's a technical term, anyone trained in the art of canning will know what you're talking about.
  • Wide mouthed plastic funnel.
  • Ladle for transferring preserves to jars
Sources for canning tools: Ace Hardware, KMart, Target, Walmart, garage sales, flea markets.

Strawberry Preserves (Jam)

Ingredients: 

(Yields about 12 250 ml jars depending upon how long you boil the strawberries.)

13 cups fresh strawberries (about 4.5 to 5 lbs)
6 cups of sugar
½ cup of lemon juice (I use organic lemons.)

Directions:

  • Place berries into a large, deep, pot and mash berries with a potato masher while bringing them to a simmer over medium-low heat.  How much you mash them is up to you. Some people like big chunks of fruit in their jam, and some don't. I do, so I don't smash them much.
  •  Add sugar and lemon juice. I used an old fashioned hand juicer and squeezed real lemons (organic) for the juice. Make sure to pour the juice through a strainer if using real lemon juice.
  •  Stir. Bring to a boil for a approximately 30 mins.  Skim the foam as you are boiling.  The foam builds up quickly when the mixture begins to boil again after adding the sugar.  Watch it closely.Periodically, test the thickness of the jam by spooning it onto a plate. If it runs like syrup, it’s not ready. (I spooned it onto  a plate and let it cool for about a minute, giving it time to set before deciding.) When it's thickened enough, skim the foam one last time and remove from heat. 
  • Remove the hot jars from the water. 
  •  Place canning funnel into sterilized jar. Ladle jam into hot jar leaving proper ‘head space’, which is the space at the top of the jar between the underside of the lid and the top of the jam. For jam it’s  about ¼ inch or, up to the bottom line at the top of the jar. Over filling and under filling may cause the jar not to seal properly.
  • Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean cloth.
  • Place a lid and a screw ring on the top of the jar and tighten firmly. (But not so tightly that it requires tools to remove it.
  • Return the sealed jars to the hot water making sure that the water covers the top of the jars by an inch. Boil  for 15 minutes.
  • Remove jars from water and place on a towel to cool and listen for the "pop" sound that the lids make when they seal. It's like music to my ears and it means that everything worked the way that it was supposed to!
I make sour cherry preserves using the same recipe.


xo.


Kimberly

Linking to:
Homestead Simple
In The Old Road