Sunday, June 2, 2013

Strawberry Jam Canning's Gateway Drug


If you're really going to embrace the homestead lifestyle just growing your own fate is enough. You must learn how to preserve your harvest. Canning is a time-tested and very reliable means of preserving a lot of your excess produce. In my opinion one of the easiest things began is strawberry jam. Since strawberries are one of the first things to get ripe in the season it's also good place to start learning that way you don't waste any time.

When I was growing up canning was a family adventure. Everyone got involved in some way. Most of the time my job was picking the fruit and cutting it up. Then Mom or Dad would do all the cooking and canning. Our kids had a lock in at our church, so they went to bed after I picked them up,meaning less hands to help. Even though my wife worked a 12 hour the night before she still came to help me pick before going to bed. We picked 3 gallons of strawberries. We picked ours at a local "you pick" farm that has not only strawberries, but also blackberries.
 After we got home I washed the strawberries. My wife says it is to get the bug pee off the berries, but honestly it is to get the dirt off. I just wash them with the garden hose and set them on my work table.  I have a worktable outside for doing a lot of the prepping. I believe that this helps me keep from messing up the kitchen as bad.
3 gallons of strawberries waiting to be processed.
  

I cap and cut up all of the berries. The photo on the left is one gallon cut up and ready and the one on the right is all three gallons. 

The caps and any soft spots go into the compost bucket. Nothing goes to waste on the homestead. With any luck we may have some volunteer strawberry plants next spring. Everything we can put back into the soil, goes back to the soil. Any volunteer plants that come up I keep. These plants have proven that they have the ability to make it through the compost pile and the winter to grow in the area. These plants tend to be very hardy.

These caps will go into the compost pile.
 
If you are concerned with getting your hands messy, this is not the job or really even life for you. When processing strawberry jam you will get strawberry "blood" on your hands.


 All jars must be sterilized and the lids must be heated. I will not go into an actual recipe because depending on if you use pectin and the brand of pectin as well as whether you are making low or no sugar jam will determine not only the amounts of each ingredient, but also cooking times. The same basic principles apply no matter which recipe you use. I suggest you find a recipe you like and go for it. If you don't add enough pectin or sugar instead of jam you may end up with strawberry syrup. It still tastes great, especially on pancakes.




 
We now have 45 1/2 pints of strawberry jam. The owner of the farm said that here there will be berries for about the next two weeks. Depending on where you are in the country it is still not too late. With an ingredient list that reads berries, sugar, and pectin it is worth the effort. The plink of the jars as they seal give me a sense of accomplishment. You can do this. This may just be the start of you taking control of your food destiny.

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