Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Homemade Strawberry Jam

(Above) Red Ripe Strawberries

(Above) "Hey, Mom, do we really get to do this with our hands?"

(Above) Laura's Strawberry Jam, Ready for Gift-Giving.

During summer days, when the girls are out of school, it's essential to have a few activities to keep little hands busy. Making strawberry jam is an easy and rewarding project that has passed my personal test -- it's perfect for both a 10-year old and 3-year old to do together and each girl feels like they made their own contribution.

If I were a total granola mom, I would begin at the U-pick farm, but these berries came straight from the Kroger produce department. I bought six quarts and had a couple cups of berries left over, which isn't a problem in this house, we put them on top of yogurt or in cereal or eat them out of hand with a bit of sugar or balsamic vinegar (that's really for the grown-ups, though).
I used the Ball brand envelope for Freezer Strawberry Jam, just one envelope to four cups of crushed fruit, plus one and a half cups of sugar. I'm no fool, so each girl got her own cutting board, bowl, fruit, pectin, sugar, and jars. I like the Ball plastic freezer jars, but used the new-fashioned canning jars, too.

The girls hulled and sliced the fruit, Laura using a paring knife and Lindsey using a plastic knife. The genius of the strawberry is that a little one can use a plastic knife and actually do the job efficiently and cleanly. After the slicing, the girls got their hands into the mix, smushing the berries between their fingers, then employing a potato masher to smash the berries more. After the sugar and pectin were added, we stirred for three minutes (excellent opportunity to use the kitchen timer), then spooned the mixture into the jars.

Within an hour, we had eight jars of homemade strawberry jam. I included a jar in a welcome basket for our new pastor's family. Homemade buttermilk scones and strawberry jam should make a tasty breakfast.

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