I have to admit that I have a hard time calling any season my absolute favorite, just because there are so many wonderful things each one has to offer. The thing I love about spring, besides all the blooming flowers and blossomed trees are the beginnings of the produce it has to offer. This is the time of year that strawberries are at their peak. The best way to know they are in season, is that you can see the price of them go down in the stores. This is a good way to tell that you are probably going to be able to find them at farms and stands. Many times you can take your children to go pick with you and make it a fun affair. Other times, if you are like I've been this year, you just need to make things as quick and efficiently as possible and buy them already picked for you. Here are a few tips for preserving and making the best strawberry jam.
1.) If at all possible, buy strawberries that are locally grown. Sun ripened strawberries make not only a sweeter jam, but a jam that will be guarenteed to "set". If you pick them yourself you can be more selective as to getting fully ripe berries at a cheaper cost, as well as making it a fun event if you take your family.
2.) If the berries are already picked, take them home and wash them and hull them (taking off the stem). Once the stem is removed strawberries ripen quicker. This is a good method to use if you're refridgerating them. Another way to ripen them faster is to place them in a brown paper bag at room temperature for a couple of days, checking them each day to see if they have reddened. The redder they are, the riper they have become.
3.) If you can't make your jam immediately and need to wait awhile, rinse your berries well and immediately refridgerate them with stems still in tact and lightly packed in a paper towel-lined ziplock bag. This will keep them fresh for longer, but not indefinately. To further extend the life of them, separate berries into pint size ziplock bags sprinkled with granulated sugar for preservation, then freeze. They will keep for up to 6 months this way. They can then be used for not only jam, but also for smoothies, or fresh berry dishes.
Ready to make some jam?! I am always asked how I make my jam so delicious, so I'm excited to share my method with you! The question for why it's so good always catches me off guard and actually makes me laugh just because it is so simple! I just follow the directions to the fruit pectin packet. My favorite is Sure Jell. When making preserves of any kind, always follow the directions strictly. This will avoid any kind of contamination and ensure proper preservation. Here are three "secrets" I have adopted over the years: 1) Some recipes call for lemon juice for avoiding discoloration, so I add 1 tsp. of lemon juice to keep the jam a bright color of red. 2) I blend berries in the blender until they are completely pureed with no chunks, making it jam, not preserves. 3) I always use the canning method in preference to freezer jam because my mother did it this way and it is a taste I am accustomed to, however, my mother-in-law always makes a delicious freezer jam!
When serving, try it on my favorite fluffy white dinner rolls, found HERE.