22 January 2009

Making strawberry jam

I don't do nearly as much preserving (canning) as I used to. Since we made the decision to keep our garden going year round, there has been no need. Now I preserve only those foods I want to make into jams, relishes and cordials, and generally I freeze the juice for cordials when we have an excess. But we had a windfall of strawberries the other day so yesterday Hanno washed and cut the fruit for me and I cooked up a pot of strawberry jam. Cut up and ready for cooking we had 2.6kg (5.7 lb) of strawberries. When you're making strawberry jam it's good to have the mass of strawberries fully ripe, for a deep and full flavour, and a small number that aren't so ripe, because they contain more natural pectin to thicken the jam.
You'll need glass jars to hold the jam. So inspect your jars to make sure they're not cracked or chipped. Check the lids as well, you don't want to use dented or rusty lids. If you're using Mason jars, check the rubber seal, or Fowlers preserving jars, make sure you have new rubber rings and clips. Generally jam is stored for a long time, so you want to be sure that your method of storage is sound. I have written about preparing jars for preserving here.

Please note, that if you're making a small amount of jam, say one or two jars, you won't need to process it in a waterbath, as long as you can store the jam in the fridge and you know it will be eaten in a few weeks. In that instance, you'd simply sterilise the jars and lids, in boiling water or the oven, before adding the jam.

To sterilise jars in the oven: wash the jars in hot soapy water, rinse in clean water and set them, and their washed lids, upside down, on a rack in the oven set on low (about 140C/ 275F). Leave them there for at least half an hour while you make the jam.

There are many ways to make good strawberry jam, this is my way:

  • Wash the fruit and cut off the green top. Don't used any soft, rotting or damaged bits, cut that part out and give it to the chooks. Cut the fruit to an equal size. You can leave the small strawberries and cut the larger ones in two or, sometimes, four. Weight the fruit.
  • Whatever weight the fruit is, add an equal portion of white sugar. So for our 2.6 kg of strawberries, I added 2.5 kg of sugar. The sugar helps preserve the jam as well as adding sweetness. You can add less sugar if you wish. I tend to go for the equal rule as we don't eat a lot of jam and have it only on our toast every so often, so the sugar isn't a problem for us.
  • Pour the sugar over the fruit and stir it through, then leave it for an hour or so. This will start to release the juice from the strawberries and start to soften them.
  • When you're ready, add the juice of two lemons - this will cut through the sugar sweetness as well as help set the jam.
  • Place the pot on the stove and bring it to the boil. Then turn it down to a rolling boil.
  • As the frothy scum starts to form on the top, remove it with your spoon.
  • After you have a rolling boil, continue cooking for another 15 minutes. Stir the jam to make sure it doesn't burn or stick on the bottom of the saucepan. When it is the consistency you like and it's reached setting point, it's ready.
  • Check your setting point by putting a small china saucer or plate in the freezer. When the plate is very cold, pour some of your jam on the plate and wait to see if it sets. The coldness of the plate will speed up the setting process. If your jam is still runny and hasn't set, keep boiling it for another ten minutes.
  • When you're happy with the look of the jam and you know it's set, while the jam is still hot, add it to your hot jars. Be careful and use a canning funnel and tongs.
  • Fill the jars, making sure that you allow ¼ inch headspace.

I made 10 jars of very good jam yesterday. The taste is deep and full bodied and doesn't just taste sweet, like commercial jams do. It taste primarily of strawberries, funny that! This jam will last us at least a year because I sterilised it in my trusty old Fowlers preserving outfit. You can see a photo of it in the preparing jars for preserving link above. But even if you have a few cups of strawberries, it's a worthwhile task to make a jar or two of delicious jam with no preservatives.

Jam making is an important skill for us folk who wish to live outside the constraints of the commercial world. It's also a necessary skill in your role as a provider of natural food, if you're wanting to preserve your excess garden harvests or if you're building a preparedness pantry. Yesterday, President Obama urged Americans to help rebuild America, but all our countries need help with their own rebuilding - Australians lost almost 7000 jobs yesterday, and I'm sure that story was repeated in many other countries. Learning these old skills is one of the ways we can help rebuild, and besides, it's wonderful feeling knowing you can turn an excess into a delicious product that will serve your family through the year ahead.

Let's get our aprons on and begin.



  1. Hi Rhonda,
    I check in daily, but have not had the time to comment, as much as I would like. I am on a 2 week vacation from work, so this lovely respite provides me with the time; to do much of what I love to do and much time to do nothing at all, if I choose.

    Your blog continously provides a plethora of useful information, which I love to glean from.

    Thank you so much,

  2. Oh I am first???
    Yum is all I can say...
    It actually has chunks of the fruit in their...Unlike commercial jam that is just smooth.
    I had Apricots I wanted to "jam" as we could'nt eat them all but did'nt know how to do ...
    My Hubby used to make Microwave Strawberry jam with great success.

  3. I love making jam. It brings the sunshine of summer back in the middle of winter.
    Nothing better than hot buttered tost with jam

  4. Delicious! We make tons and tons of jams and jelly and apple butter! I just opened a new jar of Plum Orange today and it's so good.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Rhonda,

    Once again, I am agape!! The whole hot water bath thing has been off-putting to me with the whole canning process. I had NO IDEA that it could be done in an oven (the intitial sterilziation). Wow!! Maybe now that I know that, I'll venture into canning again (that is when all the snow is gone and there are things to be harvested) here in Massachusetts.

    Thanks again!

  6. Hi Rhonda,
    Great post as always, the jam looks just delicious. I will bring the scones and cream !
    Cheers Eileen (in England).

  7. That is so funny Dash held back on using the last two spoon full of jam he wanted to save it for his sissy. I thought this morning "I need to make some strawberry jam this stuff is just to expensive to buy at $3. a 6 oz jar! I use a all fruit type to reduce the high fructose corn syrup. Very very little of it getting by me now.
    Thank you now it is a no brainer. just follow your lead without having to find a recipe and such. thanks

  8. Good morning Rhonda,

    That jam looks so good. I wish I had strawberries growing, maybe next year.

    Blessings Gail

  9. Rhonda, thank you so much. This is very helpful, and one that I've bookmarked.

  10. Good morning Rhonda,

    A timely post for we antipodeans. We don't grow our own fruit but summer's cheap oversupply offers great jam making.

    I often make little batches, jars are then on hand for us or as a lovely frugal homemade gift.

    Cheers, Rose

  11. Ive made a hujge supply of strawberry jam for this season (see on my blog) and its so delicious. We eat a ton of it so even though the pantry is full ti overflowing with jam well probably rum short before next year!! The other thing we do is a runnier type of strawberry jam and then use it to pour over ice cream. Simply delic! And yes I do think we need to return to old ways. There are so many savings to be had and fulfillment involved.
    Love Crafty cherry

  12. Hi there~
    I have been lurking for a bit and wanted to comment, I am trying to improve my life by doing things in a responsible way. Funny though, it was making jam that first inspired me to think about what I buy and what I use, I began to feel capable. :) This post is a big encouragement. May I link to your post on making soap on my blog next week? I am giving it a go on Sunday.
    Thanks for all that you do!

  13. Oh now you have me drooling over strawberry jam. Thanks for the recipe as I am going to try strawberries again this summer.

  14. Hi Rhonda,

    I don't usually comment, but I wanted to let you know I am an avid reader of your blog! As you mentioned a few days ago, it is really my source of motivation and inspiration to do things around my own house :)

    We are growing more and more of our own food, my husband and I have always lived relatively frugally, there is certainly nothing we do without, but I am always wondering how to be more self sufficient, as much as one can be in the suburbs! We currently have 19 strawberry plants, 15 of which are currently producing the most delicious strawberries, however I am wondering how often you harvest and how many plants you have to have such an amazing harvest!

    I am so thrilled that my two children (2 and 4) love to eat fresh veg straight from the garden, they help with the planting, tending, harvesting and pollinating and collecting seed. My eldest brought in some baby beans last night, she ate one raw and decided they were so delicious, she picked some for each of us to have with our dinner :)

    Thank you so much for sharing your life with us all :) it means the world to me to have such an amazing source of inspiration!


  15. Hello dear friends!

    Larissa, you're right to be cautious of boiling water but maybe you can do as I do. Do the oven sterilisation of the jars - all that requires is that you wash the jars and lids and place them in the oven. Then prepare your canner. Mine is very old, she's a big old girl from the 70s. I place it on the stove empty, then pack it with the jars - it takes ten jars, then I fill the preserving unit with water using a saucepan. I turn on the heat and go through the process, when it's over I remove the jars with my canning tongs while the unit is still sitting on the stove. Then I just leave the unit to go gold and Hanno carries it outside for me and pours the water on the garden. Doing it like that, the unit is never moved when full of boiling water.

    Eileen, I made scones for lunch today. I have no cream though. :- )

    River of Odd, hello and welcome. I hope you enjoy your jam making. I'd be happy for you to link to my blog.

    Lana, welcome, thank you for reading and delurking. We were given the strawberries, they were not grown in our backyard. We live in a strawberry and pineapple growing area. We do have strawberries here but they're on their last legs and only give us a few berries every so often. We'll pull them out in a few month's time to make room for extra vegetables. You may be able to freeze your strawberries until you have enough for a couple of jars of jam. I think I would get along well with your daughter. I love eating beans, peas and radishes in the garden - they taste much better out there in the fresh air with the chooks watching and wondering 'where's mine". When my boys were little, they used to garden with me and Shane is still an avid gardener. I think it is why both my boys became fine food chefs.

  16. This looks delicious ! I've made strawberry jam once ... should really do it again at the end of strawberry season when the berries are cheap !

  17. I just made plum jam from our Satsuma plums a couple of days ago and blackberry will be soon. Unfortunately we never have enough strawberries make it inside to be made into jam.

  18. ohhhh, your jam looks delicious, and it is nice to see whole strawberries in it. Which would be lovely in a crepe I think.

    I am really going to try very hard this year to can my excess. Although I am going to try and barter at work for things, so we will have to see how things go.

    Great post as usual Rhonda, how is the book going?

  19. If you don't have all of the pans etc to make jam the traditional way then this is the way I make jam - all you need is a microwave! http://swirlyarts.blogspot.com/2008/08/easiest-way-to-make-jam-ever.html
    I love reading your blog by the way :)

  20. I love making jam and chutney. This looks really good jam - perfect colour and I bet it tastes wonderful - as you said, of fruit and not just red sugar!

  21. By the way, here in UK we don't use a hot water bath for the jam - just pre-heat/sterilize jars and lids in the oven on a low heat, and put the lids on the minute the jars are filled and leave to cool.

  22. Yum! We pick and eat our strawberries by the ones and twos; we'd need a lot more plants for jam!
    I haven't made jam since 3 moves ago when we had a beautiful apricot tree. We have one here too, but it was heavily pruned to make way for a new fence so no fruit this year. :-(
    But Rhonda, you have reminded me how easy jam is and even if I have to buy a box of fruit, I'm going to give it a go soon.

  23. I made 24 jars of apricot jam this week, enough for us and enough to give to neighbours and friends.

  24. Hi Rhonda
    This post made me smile as I made a batch of strawberry jam on new year's eve whilst on holiday at my son's place - very limited kitchen equipment but I had a crazy urge to make strawberry jam - found some delicious organic ones at a local farm. Various young people were wandering in & out of the kitchen, offering advice, helping hull, stir..look, admire the aroma etc. It was a different way to spend N.Y's eve but fun. Your pics are wonderful - can almost smell & taste that jam !

  25. I love strawberry jam! It looks soo tastey. Thank you for posting this recipe - I will be using this summer. Not many strawberries available when it is 21 outside!

  26. Hello! I am a new reader and really enjoyed spending all day going through your old posts (between doing chores - I looked like a jack-in-the-box jumping up and down all day).

    Thank you for this post - I want to try this!

    I am also working up the courage to spend the money and get a garden started this spring. Wish I had a mentor living next door! LOL!

  27. Lovely, lovely jam! How delicious on hot buttered biscuits!


  28. Ohhhh, that looks so good. And on hot buttered homemade biscuits! Thank you for showing me that I don't have to buy pectin for strawberries. I never had tried it without! I have made fig jam without, but never strawberry. That really helps with the cost. Thank you once again!

  29. Hello Rhonda. WOW what a post! Than you so much, I'd love to give this a try...fingers crossed my strawberries grow well this year! Thanks again for the wealth of info.
    Lucy. :)

  30. I have a good size quantity of strawberries in my freezer from a good sale I found last year. I trimmed the tops and froze them whole. I'd love to make jam with them. Do you have a recipe to use for frozen berries?

  31. Thank you for sharing! Looks so very yummy!


  32. Mmmmm that looks so yum!

    Does the same 'formula' work for other fruits too Rhonda? Such as apricots and peaches? Or do you need to add a little water or jamsetta/pectin to them?

  33. Thanks for the recipe. I have a question about canning after reading your article about how to prepare jars. I have canned but get confused about how long you can keep your jam cooking while you wait for the water for the jars to boil. Can you cool down your jam and then reheat it when ready or should you time everything to be ready all at once? Does this matter at all?

  34. I have two questions. Are the red and white topped jars you showed new or used ones? I was wondering if you were reusing the jars from jams bought earlier and how that works in canning? I am used to using the 2 piece usual canning lid and ring and wondered if these tops you have resealed in the waterbath. I take it they are the ones with a bit of rubber inside the lid. Also you mentioned in comments you put the hot filled canning jars into your empty canning pot then added water to it from a saucepan. Do you use already hot water? If not wouldn't the jars break as they were already hot? I am just trying to learn new things and know what is the right way of doing it. Your writing has certainly helped spur me on to doing more than ever to be independent. Thank you so much Rhonda. Jody

  35. Hi Rhonda, I usually read your blog on Bloglines so I don't always comment but I just had to come and thank you for explaining jam making. It's something I've been wanting to do for a while now. I didn't know about the oven sterilization. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us!


  36. Jody, the red and white lidded jars are recycled French jam jars. I'll be doing a kitchen table post soon on canning/preserving.

  37. Thankyou for answering Rhonda. I saw the top picture of the finished jam had what looked like different lids from recycled jars too and was wondering if I could use these instead of the flats and rings I usually use when using the water bath. I didn't know if they would seal right so I could put them on the shelf instead of in the refrigerator or freezer. My mother used to put hot parafin on top of her jelly then the lid when it cooled and put them in the cold cellar and they would keep well that way too. Do they use the parafin method still? I don't know if it is recommended anymore. I know you had to be careful to get the hot parafin all around the edges to insure a good seal.

  38. Our local farm store had two pounds of lovely fresh strawberries when we went this week, so we bought them both, and a fresh lemon too... just so we could try your jam recipe! The results are delicious, but very thick with slightly chewy strawberry chunks - tasty, but challenging to spread on bread! I'm guessing we boiled the jam too long, but how would we know when to stop? What consistency would we like?! Any further pointers? Thank you!

  39. Hi Rhonda!
    I just found your blog via Nikki's and Oh-My- Gosh!, this Jam looks fabulous!! I love all your posts and am making my way through it slowly but just had to make my first comment here :)! I just want to go out and buy some strawberries (although I am sure they wouldn't be as nice as yours!) and make some of this and some homemade bread and eat myself into a diabetic coma lol!!!
    Seriously though -your blog is wonderful and I can't wait to learn more about you!! You take care of yourself and your family and congratulations on the up coming wedding of your son and future daughter in law. We had our eldest daughter get married last April and it was wonderful!
    Hugs from Perth in WA

  40. Hello,

    Just discovered your fabulous blog.
    I find it most interesting to read your posts and look at your pictures.

    Will be back.

  41. Wow, what a great website! I recently made your strawberry jam and apart from ignoring your instructions (?!) and way overcooking it - it was great. Second batch much better...

    Anyway I am just wondering (and hoping you have time to respond quickly?!) - some books suggest you need to use those wax circle things and put on top of the jam - is this true and what happens if you don't?

    I've done it but it ends up looking rubbish...

    If you do have to do it, can you buy them or do you have to cut them out yourself?

    THANKS!! Will be checking your blog regularly.


  42. Hi Rhonda,

    I'm a young Australian bloke living in the middle east and stumbled onto your blog whilst eating home made strawberry jam on toast and looking for a good recipe. I just wanted to say that your recipe/approach reminded me greatly of my mothers and grandmother(who make the best jams ever). Its great to see such valuable and appreciated information being made available and not forgotten! Keep up the good work and long live home cooking!

  43. Just made my first batch of real jam, have made microwave jam in the past. There's jars in a waterbath right now and we are eating toast with lashings of fresh jam. Ended up with 5 1/2 jars of delicious jam, so much better than store bought.


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