I have always wanted to make jam but have been too afraid to try. When I found out that you do not have to go through the whole preserving process to make jam (for some reason I thought it was mandatory) my ears perked right up! You just have to eat it within two weeks. Homemade jam? Two weeks? Umm…no problem. This was the best tasting jam I have ever eaten. When jam is this good, it is absolutely dangerous to make your own. Luckily I love danger in the kitchen.
How to make homemade jam
My opportunity came yesterday. I woke up at 5 am and could not sleep so I was at the grocery store first thing in the morning. As a result, I came across large containers of strawberries on sale for half price. I think I got this 32 oz container for just over $2! They were super ripe and I figured the best thing I could do with them other than make smoothies is make jam. I also used the juice of one line, defrosted just over 2 cups of frozen rhubarb, used 2 cups of sugar and 1 package of gelatin softened with a little bit of cranberry juice. You do not have to use gelatin (vegetarians won’t want to) but I do not like runny jam so I thought, what the heck? I also got the Joy of Cooking out. It seems everyone who makes jam refers to measurements like pints, ounces, pounds and I need help figuring out how to turn that into cups!
After the rhubarb had been defrosted (naturally, I don’t often use the microwave, just a big timer) I washed, hulled and chopped up all the strawberries and covered the fruit with two cups of sugar and the juice of one lime. One recipe I read suggested letting the strawberries macerate for two hours which means the sugar will naturally help the fruit release their natural juices. These berries were so ripe I decided to just let them sit for 45 minutes.
And then the madness started. You are supposed to put all of this lovely mess in a large dutch over and heat over medium heat until it reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer. Which I could not find. Arg! And the mixture was already well on its way to bubbling so I found my meat thermometer and attached it to the side of the pot. The red beautiful brew continued heating up while I poured some cranberry juice over the gelatin to swell.
After 20 minutes the jam was getting super hot but the thermometer swore it was just at 200 degrees. I realized then that it was not long enough to get near the bottom and was not reading the temperature correctly. I had absolutely no idea how hot it was and this stuff can be very dangerous. Because I was running around searching for the thermometer I did not stir enough and I could feel sticky bits on the bottom. Crap! OK, executive decision. Let’s turn this sucker OFF! Crikey, I wonder how hot it actually got? It was like lava!
You know something is hot when it keeps bubbling away when there is no heat source! It just kept mumbling and bubbling to itself while I tried not to cry. Did I screw this up completely? Is it even going to be edible? I let it cool down until it stopped bubbling and then stirred in the gelatin until it dissolved. When it cooled off quite a bit I carefully slid the mixture into a bowl and left the sticky bits in the pot, letting it cool down completely in the fridge.
Hours later I tasted a bit of the jam and it was absolute heaven! Wow, if I can screw up like that and make food that tastes like this? Life is good. This recipe only made one and a half jars of jam but that is OK by me, if it made more I would eat it all!
So I did it. I finally made jam! It is like having strawberry rhubarb pie filling in a jar and tastes like summer. I got over some of my fears and gave it a shot and next time, I will have the candle thermometer ready and waiting.
Please Note: I forgot to mention, as the jam bubbles away skim the impurities off the top which basically means use a spoon and remove the frothy bubbles.