You don’t have to make a dozen jars of jam for the shelf! Make what you need for now.
Your grandmother probably stood over a hot stove for hours stirring jams and canning them in large water baths, house full of steam and lovely aromas, proud of her labors but with an aching back as well!
I still love the ritual of making a batch of jam, canning it, and tucking it away for later in the year. There is something satisfying about that lovely row of jewels lined up in the pantry.
However, even though the will is there, we often don’t have the time available to devote to the whole process, and it does take a full morning or afternoon of work, not counting the picking!
But you don’t have to make a dozens of jars of jam for a year’s use; you can make a little batch that will cook in the time it takes you to get the rest of breakfast together. Stored in the refrigerator, it will keep for several weeks, but you will probably use it up beforehand.
The easiest way to preserve the harvest is to freeze the fresh berries flat on a cookie sheet, and then place them in containers or zip-lock bags to freeze for use later in the year. This way you can take out what you need and they won’t stick together. You can even use them to make a quick, small batch of jam them some morning in January.
This technique uses just three ingredients and 20 minutes or so of your time.
Quick Refrigerator Strawberry Jam
When you are making jam without added pectin, always include a few that are not quite ripe. Strawberries with some green on them still have more natural pectin. Another old time trick is to chop up some apple (firm ones such as Granny Smith) and add it to the cooking to add more pectin to the mix.
Chop by hand, or gently pulse in the food processor:
1 quart lovely local strawberries.
1 vanilla bean pod, split
Place in a saucepan, and add:
- ½ cup white sugar
Over medium high heat, bring to a hard boil, then turn down to a simmer and continue to cook for 15 minutes or so. Remove from heat and stir in:
- The juice and zest of one lemon.
The jam will continue to thicken as it cools. Place in jars of choice and store in the refrigerator for up to three weeks, or freeze what you are not going to use immediately.
If you like, you can add other ingredients to the jam. Is your rhubarb ready? Chop up some and throw it in to cook with the berries. You can also add herbs such as thyme and mint that work well with the flavor of strawberries.