Strawberries are here! Woohoo!
I have been hitting my local pickin’ patch as often as I can these past few days. The strawberry season is ridiculously short and I’m trying to get as many pounds as I can before they’re gone. I’ll freeze berries and then later when the raspberries and blackberries are ready I’ll do a triple berry jam. Mmm……triple berry…..
So, strawberries. A perfectly ripe, in-season Ohio strawberry is one of the best foods on planet earth. I think I’ll rank them behind only dippy eggs on my scale of perfect foods. For real. Those ones you get at the grocery store in the off-season? Bleck! Not even close!!
I pick my own because they’re about half the price. It’s tedious and hot but well worth it. The worst is when you’re out in the field and you find that a darn bug has found the perfect berry before you did. Rats!
Once I get them home I set up my station.
I rinse my berries well under cold water in my giganto colander. Then I hull them and toss them into a another colander. Once that one is full I rinse them a second time and then move them to a toweled baking sheet to dry off a bit.
During this process I also have to fend off grabby hands.
And then I jam.
The first jam I always make is one that is very dear to my heart. I call it Grandma Iris’s Strawberry Jam. Iris was my maternal grandmother and she’s the reason I started jamming.
As a kid she always had strawberry jam in small plastic containers in the freezer. Whenever we would sleep over we always had honey nut cheerios and toast with jam for breakfast. It was the BEST jam. When my grandmother was sick and we knew she didn’t have a lot of time left I decided there were some things I needed to ask her about before she was gone – one of those things was her strawberry jam recipe.
I remember saying, “Grandma before you’re gone I have to know how to make your jam!” She smiled and said, “The recipe is on the back of the Sure-Jell box Liz.”
Ha! All my life I thought she had some treasured family recipe and it turns out it’s the classic Sure-Jell recipe! I learned from my grandmother that it really is the simple things in life that are the very best and her strawberry jam was the perfect example of that.
I measured my berries and mixed in my Sure-Jell. I cried a little and sipped red wine and once it was at a rolling boil I added the ridiculous amount of sugar the recipe calls for. I brought it back to a boil, skimmed the foam, and got it ready for processing all while thinking about how much I miss my grandma and how much I wish I could share my ever evolving jam skills with her.
As I have grown up and gotten more adventurous in my jam making I’ve decided that I prefer to omit commercial pectin for less sugar and longer cook times. I like the fruit to be the star rather than the sugar.
But I can’t not make this jam. Mike loves it. And I love crying over a boiling pot of sugared berries.