Thursday, May 24, 2018

Preserves and precipitation

Well, we made it. Yesterday was the last day of school and we ran our butts off with pizza parties, candy and prizes and certificates by the armload, a school-wide ceremony and choral performance in honor of our principal, who has moved onto retirement, a trip to the park, the LB's guitar lesson and the GB's final ballet lesson and in-class end-of-semester demonstration (this is not a recital year, thankfully - the recital is a Very Big Deal but only happens every other year, so I've got a breather this time). Anyway, by the time we got home to eat our dinner of pasta salad that I'd made at 8:30 in the morning and a green salad I threw together so fast I thought I'd chop my fingers off, we all pretty much crashed. The Bear and I were asleep before 10 pm, that's how exhausted we both were. And now it's the first day of summer vacation. Hard to believe, but here we are.

This week, in between all the crazy, I managed to make strawberry jam. I'd been hoping to make a new batch of jam for weeks and I really wanted to make basic strawberry. I was watching for a good price on strawberries, which always makes me feel better about homemade jam because while I like the idea of jam as frugality, the fruit is almost never so cheap that I can say I'm just doing it to save money. Really, it's because I love to make jam.

I did something different this time, though. I had several containers of low-sugar pectin (Ball brand) in my pantry and really needed to use some of it. I'd picked them up last year at the end of the canning season for a song when they were clearanced at the grocery store. We'd recently done a big overhaul of the pantry to organize it better, and the pectin jars were taking up more space than I could justify. Time to give it a try.

Most of the process was exactly the same, but a few things were a little different. You have to add liquid to the fruit, for example, to create more juice. Some recipes will also require the addition of lemon juice, though not with strawberries. It did use much less sugar - a huge reduction. My normal recipe takes 6-7 cups of sugar, while this one required only two! Really! I was hesitant, thinking maybe the jam wouldn't be sweet enough (I don't need it to be sickly-sweet, but it's jam, you expect a certain sweetness). It was somewhat less sweet than the normal recipe, but still very good and the strawberry flavor came through very nicely.

I'm happy with my jam. I bought the low-sugar pectin mainly on impulse, but I think it's a good product and will use it again. It makes healthier jam, too, which is certainly a plus. I don't think I'll switch over to low-sugar pectin entirely - I'm okay with regular jam sometimes as well - but it's nice to know this type works well and makes a nice batch. You can also use this pectin to make no-sugar jam, if you want to avoid sugar altogether.

Low-Sugar Strawberry Jam
Makes 8 half-pint jars

3 pounds hulled, sliced strawberries (5 cups mashed)
1 1/3 cups water or unsweetened fruit juice
6 tablespoons low-sugar pectin
2 cups granulated sugar

Wash and heat (or sterilize) jars, lids and bands as desired.

Prepare the strawberries and mash them, one layer at a time, in a large bowl with a potato masher. Transfer the fruit to a large pot and stir in the water or juice.

Add the pectin and stir until dissolved. Heat the fruit mixture on high heat until it reaches a rolling boil that can't be stirred down.

Add the sugar all at once and return to a rolling boil. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Ladle jam into prepared jars, putting on lids as quickly as possible.

If desired, process the jars according to your preferred method (I follow USDA Home Canning Guidelines, adjusted for high altitude).

On Monday afternoon, we had a big thunderstorm! It was just like a monsoon day, and we acted accordingly (lots of running from one room to another to see what the storm was doing), but we're not in monsoon season yet (only another 5 or 6 weeks, know how much I love that time of year). Monday's storm came up really fast; the sky was very dark and there was a lot of wind and thunder. The rain was quite torrential for a little while, and there was lots of hail too. We measured six-tenths of an inch of rain here at our house, which is pretty impressive. Mark Ronchetti said on the evening news that it was our first measurable rainfall in 56 days. That's rather sobering, and we're all hoping for more, but for now, we're just glad to have had a good storm. We'll see what summer brings; our fingers and toes are crossed for a spectacular monsoon season.


  1. Gosh that weather looks crazy ☺ And I am sure I would love that jam. Busy little lady you are. Here into Autumn and finally a day of no rain lol

  2. Your jam looks so pretty!
    That was quite a storm!

  3. Happy Summer!!!
    Your jam looks delicious. : )

  4. Strawberry jam! It’s my favorite and I enjoyed reading about the process of making it. I can hear the relief in your written words of being done with school for another year. Your storm looks wonderful. We had almost a half inch of rain yesterday. I love to hear a gentle rain on the campers roof. Lots of flooding around here right now but everyone is already concerned about fires this summer.
    Have a lovely weekend Jennifer.

  5. I'm always hesitant of making anything that requires the sterilization of jars. Your jam looks great. I heard about the stormy weather in your area. When we were in Denver before heading back to Kuwait, there was a hail storm. It was crazy to still find all those little pieces of ice the next morning, still perfectly intact. Congrats on a successful end to the school year!

  6. That looks like a fantastic storm, I love dramatic weather like that. We've had rain here today after a really long dry spell. I'm not sorry to see it, the gardens were thirsty. The jam sounds good, I want to make some this year, I didn't last year, but it's always so good to have proper homemade jam in the cupboard. I hope you have a wonderful summer break. Maybe you can take it easy for a few days after the manic end-of-term activity?! CJ xx

  7. I love a good storm, and one with hail, well, so exciting! Totally out of season, we have one predicted for this weekend. Yay :)

  8. I slept at the cabin last night and there was a wonderful sunset with a red globe of a sun. But as I settled down to sleep the rain started on the roof - it was so loud, no hail though. Any plans for the holidays? Keep it low stress Jen. Jo xxx

  9. Your jam looks awesome. It's been years since I've tried my hand at it, and when I did...had mixed results. That's quite a storm...hail? The kids seem to think it's funny. No doubt they have lots of plans for their summer. Don't think our kids will be out for several more weeks.
    Sandy's Space

  10. Happy summer! That last day of school sounded rather insane. I remember those days and I'm glad they're over - but yet I miss them, too. I'm not into making jam - maybe because I rarely eat it myself and neither Brian nor Tim like it - but I know a good homemade jam is delicious. I just bought two containers of organic strawberries at the store today and will be making a strawberry-rhubarb crisp. I have rhubarb growing here, so I can just go out and cut my own.

    Glad you finally got some rain. We've had quite a bit here and now it's HOT (almost 90 today; 90's this weekend). In fact, it's now clouding up and it looks like we might get a storm. I'm just hoping it's not a bad one - they tend to be when it's hot like this.

  11. Well done for making it to summer break, those last few weeks of school are always so busy with so many things going on, and that's without all the out of school activities too. The jam looks delicious, I'm hoping to go strawberry picking soon so perhaps I'll make some strawberry jam too. We had quite a bit of rain here yesterday after a dry spell, though nothing like your storm. I think the plants will have been pleased though as the ground was starting to bake solid.

  12. I am glad you made it through the last day of school, it sounds crazy. I use pectin sugar for strawberry jam because strawberries don't contain much and without the jam is all runny. I didn't know you can reduce the amount of sugar when adding pectin to your jam. Thanks for the tip, I am noting it down. I love strawberry jam and yours looks delicious. Such a good idea to mash it little before cooking, another thing to note down for my strawberry jam making (July, we are late). That's some hail in your garden, I hope there was not too much damage? I got caught in some hail a few weeks ago, it was painful but no doubt worse for tender spring plants. Wishing you a wonderful summer holiday xx

  13. Oh, I will bookmark your jam recipe. Thank you! I BET you guys were exhausted! Why does the end of the year have to be so crazy-busy? It always is.
    It's raining here right now. I hope we get lots of thunderstorms.

  14. It is a lot of fun to make jam! Making it with less sugar is a great option. You are truly an inspiration.

  15. Mmm sounds great.
    That sounds like a crazy last day.. but now you get a nice long summer.
    We have school for another month.. I'm counting down the days.

  16. I am a bit behind in my blog reading/commenting but I really enjoyed your post here and it's wonderful that you make jam! I hope you are having a peaceful start to this week!!!

  17. I'm out doing blog rounds again so thought I'd pop in and see what you're up to.
    Sandy's Space

  18. Hey Jennifer,
    I love a good storm! We don't get them often here. I also love making jam, but haven't done so for quite a while. Olly has informed me that when we move to The Wink, his stall will have jam for sale, as well as eggs and flowers. I may be quite busy....
    Leanne xx

  19. That rain, my goodness! You captured it well in your photos. We've recently, and unusually, had a couple of really good storms at night with lightening. I never tire of watching it.

    The jam looks great. It heralds the start of summer, strawberry season, don't you think? I hope you're relaxing now and settling into your different summer break rhythms. Here, we go back to school tomorrow for seven more weeks before finishing on Friday 20th July. There's a lot to do between now and then. xx

    1. That should be lightning, not lightening. I knew you'd notice. :-)

  20. Monday morning....geesh another week, time seems to go by so quickly these days. Out making my blog rounds, hope you had a good wkend.
    Sandy's Space


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