This past weekend we celebrated strawberry season on the farm; by making 8 pints of strawberry jam!
I found several different recipes for strawberry jams and jellies when I was flipping through cookbooks. Generally, jam was more like strawberry preserves while jelly was similar to today’s jell-o.
The difference between jam and jelly in 2012 is really quite simple. Jam is made with pieces of fruit, while jelly is made with fruit juices. Most people have a preference between the two, what’s yours?
No matter if you are a jam or jelly person, making preserves requires copious amounts of sugars. However, there is very little effort to it beyond cooking, stirring, and eventually sealing. It took about 4 hours for us to make this jam on the wood stove (while talking to visitors interested in preserving). For those 4 hours though, the house smelled deliciously of strawberries.
All preserves should begin with good fruit! Strawberries do grow well here in Iowa, though this year, like everything else, they came in a bit early. There are several different ways you can make jam, including recipes for freezer jam. Making jams and jellies is a great way to preserve fruit for consumption later. In 1900, preservation was a must! In 2012, we can purchase fruit in the middle of winter if we want, though it tends to be more expensive. A great way to take advantage of cheaper prices and local farmer fruit is to preserve it yourself like the 1900 farmers did.
As you can seen, there are several different ways to make jams and jellies – there are 2 in 1 cookbook! Finding a recipe is not difficult. What is difficult is getting that recipe to work for you. I suggest, if you are trying to make jam in a modern kitchen, start with pectin, a gelling agent based in citrus that was first isolated in 1825. Most pectins will have a recipe for a quick jam or jelly in the package.
Then get to making the jam! With 8 pints of jam, we used 8 cups of sugar and some lemon juice. The fruit was cooked down to a rolling boil (where stirring does not cause the boiling to go away), then the sugar added. We were careful to stir and not let the sugar stick.
After the sugar was added we brought the mixture again to a rolling boil and proceeded to pour the jelly into clean jars for canning or sealing with wax (a few of each with this batch).
Making jam was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday. I am sure it will taste like summer (perhaps a bit sweeter) when we open up the jars during the cool of the fall or the cold of the winter. Good luck making your own taste of summer!