Every year during strawberry season, I’m caught off-guard just a little bit. Not by the berries, or the weather, or anything like that–but by my boys. Because we do pretty much exactly the same thing each strawberry season–pick berries and make jam–it’s hard not to notice how much they’ve grown–in all kinds of ways–from one year to the next. The years when I worried about them stepping all over the berries while picking, or when I wore one or the other of them on my back while making jam, are a long way from where we are now–not so much in years (as it’s really only been a few), but certainly in growth. This year, we picked for over two hours straight, in the hot sun, with very little complaining. Both boys are finally able to reliably recognize and avoid under-ripe and rotten berries. And, Connor picked almost as many berries as I did in the same amount of time (!?!). All firsts this year. Having slightly sentimental leanings, I feel a tiny twinge of sadness watching these changes from year to year, but mostly it makes me so, so happy to see the confident, capable boys they are becoming.
There have been changes on the jam-making front as well. Both boys have been doing the mashing, measuring, and mixing part for quite some time now, but this year they each were ready for a little bit more. As they’re two years apart in age, what they’re ready for and able to do is a little different, and they each wanted to make their “own” jam, so I worked with each of them independently to help them with the process. This year, Ian took on the jam-cooking part for the first time, while Connor did pretty much the whole jam-making process from start to finish, including filling the jars and loading the canner, with a relatively small amount of help from me. With hot burners and hot jam, they both had close supervision for sure, and lots of “spotting” from me to avoid any mishaps, but none the less they did it themselves. And, the jams were delicious! Needless to say, they could not have been more proud.
Connor and Ian’s Strawberry-Honey Jam
Yield: 4-5 half-pint (8 ounce) jars
To do ahead of time:
***Prepare the calcium water. To do this, combine 1/2 teaspoon white calcium powder (included in the Pomona’s Universal Pectin package) with 1/2 cup water in a small, clear container with a lid. Shake well before using. Note that you will have more calcium water than you will end up using in this recipe; simply store it in the refrigerator for later use.
2 1/4 pounds fresh strawberries (about 2 heaping quart containers)
2 teaspoons calcium water
3/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons Pomona’s Universal Pectin Powder
1.) Wash and rinse jars, lids, and screw bands. Set screw bands aside until ready to use. Place jars in boiling water bath canner with a rack, fill at least 2/3 of the way full with water, and bring to a boil. Boil jars for 10 minutes to sterilize (add 1 additional minute of sterilizing time for every 1000 feet above sea level), then turn down heat and let jars stand in hot water until ready to use. Place lids in water in a small pan, bring to a low simmer, and hold there until ready to use.
2.) Rinse the strawberries, then remove stems. Mash the berries in a large bowl (a potato masher works well for this).
3.) Measure 4 cups of the mashed strawberries. If you have extra, save it for another use. Pour the measured amount into a sauce pan. Add the calcium water and stir to combine.
4.) In a separate bowl, combine the honey and the pectin powder. Mix well and set aside.
5.) Bring the strawberries to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the honey-pectin mixture, then stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes, still over the highest heat, to dissolve pectin. Return the mixture to a boil, then remove it from the heat.
6.) Remove hot jars from canner and fill jars with jam, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Remove trapped air bubbles, wipe rims with a damp cloth, and put on lids and screw bands, tightening bands only to “fingertip tight” (until resistance is met, and then just the tiniest bit more).
7.) Place jars in the hot water, on the rack inside the canner. (Make sure jars are upright, not touching each other or the sides of the canner, and are covered with at least 1-2 inches of water). Place the lid on the canner, return the canner to a rolling boil, and boil for 10 minutes. (Add 1 minute additional processing time for every 1000 feet above sea level.)
8.) Turn off heat and allow canner and jars to sit for 5 minutes. Then, remove jars from canner.
9.) Allow jars to cool undisturbed for 12-24 hours. Then, confirm that jars have sealed. Remove screw bands from sealed jars, rinse off outside of jars if necessary, label jars, and store for later use.