Strawberries are fresh and in season right now. And there’s nothing like a ripe, fragrant, delicious strawberry to make your tastebuds sing. It also means that this is the perfect time of year to consider making your own strawberry jam. To illustrate this point I’ve done a quick run down on several brands of strawberry jam available at my local grocery store.
A few notes before we start:
Strawberries are one of the Dirty Dozen. This is a list put together by the Environmental Working Group which notes the top 12 fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated by pesticides. In the case of strawberries it’s overwhelming. Just last year the USDA examined pesticide levels in food and strawberries were found to contain a wide variety of fumigants which were linked to developmental problems in children, cancer, hormonal disruption, neurotoxicity, and even some which were toxic to honeybees. All of this adds up to make it vitally important that we choose organic strawberries.
As with any jar, the lid most likely contains BPA. Heat, pressure, and food contact are some of the ways that BPA can be transferred to the food. It’s nearly impossible to avoid.
When looking at labels I deliberately did not choose those jars which contained artificial sweeteners. I believe these to be so toxic to the body that no one should eat them. Ever. So it did not make sense to include them in this post. I do want to point out, however, that there were just as many jars that contained artificial sweeteners as there were jars without.
Strawberry jam is easy to make at home and I’ve included a recipe at the end of the article. Canning itself is a simple, albeit hot and humid, process. When I teach canning classes I often teach how to make strawberry jam because it’s so easy. After learning how to make it, invariably, the students say, “Is that it? That’s so easy.” Yes it is. If you have a good source of clean strawberries near you, consider making your own jam.
Homemade Strawberry Jam
This very simple recipe comes from The Ball Blue Book. My copy is rather old, tattered, and stained. But the recipes are still delicious. This is a great book to start with if you’re just learning about making jams, jellies, pickles, and chutneys. There’s a host of good recipes in this book.
It is important when using this recipe to measure the amount of strawberries first and then crush. If you do it the other way you will make a delicious strawberry sauce but it won’t set. If you have the opportunity to pick your own strawberries try to get some which still have the white tips on them. I find that these help to make it set better.
It’s also important to use evaporated cane juice crystals and not sucanat. I’m assuming that it’s because of the higher mineral content, but I have not had success using sucanat in canning and I refuse to use white sugar because it’s so bad for us.
2 quarts strawberries, crushed
6 cups sugar
Combine berries and sugar in a large sauce pot.
Bring slowly to a boil stirring until sugar dissolves.
Cook rapidly until thick, about 40 minutes.
As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking.
Pour hot into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space.
Process 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Yield: about 4 pints.