Bright and Fruity Strawberry Jam, Your Way Recipe

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Photograph: Vicky Wasik

Why It Works

  • A set formula and commercial pectin ensure great results, even if you change things up.
  • Commercial low-sugar pectin sets the jam up quickly, leaving the flavor bright and the process easy.

In northern climates, strawberries are the first tangible evidence that summer has truly arrived. These fragile berries, filled with water and sugar, are beloved both by people and by the kajillion-strong microbe population. To enjoy strawberries, you've got to be quick, because the invisible kingdom of bacteria and molds is just as eager to take a bite. It's a race against time that determines who will consume the berry first: you, or the microbes.

Your best defense, aside from eating them all right away, is preservation, but "preservation" is a bit of a misnomer; it's really extension. In the end, all we're trying to do is buy ourselves some time, and the better we understand the science that underlies preservation, the more time we can buy.

This classic strawberry jam is built on a very basic formula. Using regular pectin: 4 cups strawberries + 4 cups sugar + 1/3 cup pectin. For a strawberry jam made with low-sugar pectin: 4 cups strawberries + 2 cups sugar + 2 tablespoons lemon juice + 1/3 cup low-sugar pectin. In fact, that's not just the master formula for strawberry jam; that's the master formula for most jams. Follow it and you'll have a jam that comes together quickly and ends up bright and fruity. Or, use the formula to your advantage, making substitutions that are guaranteed to work.

This is the alchemy of jam-making. Did you know that strawberry and horseradish complement each other magnificently? The cooking process tempers the horseradish, and, when married to the sugar and strawberries, it produces a jam that will change every roast beef sandwich in your life. Using chopped candied ginger and candied orange peels together increases the sweetness, but adds a lovely toothsome quality to strawberry jam.

Here are some additional suggestions:

  • Replace some of the strawberries with other liquids or solids. For example, use 2 cups strawberries with 2 cups dry red wine, 2 cups strawberries with 2 cups Prosecco, 3 cups strawberries with 1 cup ginger beer, or 3 cups strawberries with 1 cup diced rhubarb.
  • Replace the granulated sugar with an equal quantity of another sweetener, such as brown sugar, maple syrup, hickory syrup, or honey.
  • Replace the lemon juice with an equal quantity of another acid, such as balsamic vinegar, lime juice, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or sherry vinegar.
  • Add flavorings without changing other quantities, such as spices like freshly ground black pepper, freshly grated horseradish (it's surprisingly good!), or fresh herbs like minced tarragon.

The final step is to ask yourself what your goals are for your preserves. Do you need the jam to last for months on end in a cellar? Then you'll need to heat-process it on top of everything else. If you merely want to store the jam in the fridge for several weeks, you can skip that step. Or keep it in the freezer for several months.

Recipe Facts

Active: 25 mins
Total: 40 mins
Serves: 48 to 64 servings
Makes: 6 to 8 jars

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Ingredients

  • 4 cups (22 ounces; 625g) roughly chopped hulled strawberries (see notes)

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) fresh juice from 1 lemon, plus more if needed

  • 2 cups granulated sugar (14 ounces; 400g)

  • 1/3 cup powdered low-sugar pectin (1 1/2 ounces; 45g), such as Ball or Sure-Jell, plus more if needed (see notes)

Directions

  1. Combine strawberries and lemon juice in a large nonreactive saucepan and set over medium heat until simmering. Stir in sugar and bring mixture to a full boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Stir in pectin until dissolved, return heat to medium-high and bring to a full rolling boil. As soon as mixture reaches a full boil, cook for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes.

    Stirring a pot of simmering strawberries and sugar, destined to be jam.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  2. To Check the Jam Set: Spoon 1 tablespoon (15ml) jam onto a small dish and allow to cool completely, to room temperature. Run a finger through the jam. If the jam remains separated, it is properly set; if it runs back together, it is not. If not set, add an extra 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon low-sugar pectin, then return to a boil and boil for 1 minute longer. Repeat jam set test until jam is properly set.

  3. Carefully scrape any foam or scum from surface of jam. Transfer jam to clean jars, leaving 1/4 inch space at the top; seal jars. Jam can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks or frozen for up to 3 months. If heat-processing the jam, process for 8 minutes.

Special Equipment

3-quart stainless steel saucepan, 8-ounce canning jars

Notes

You can choose how finely to chop the strawberries: Leave them in bigger pieces for a chunkier jam, or chop them up smaller (or even mash them with a potato masher) for a smoother jam. This recipe is formulated to work with low-sugar pectin; substituting other types of pectin will not work here unless you know how to alter the recipe accordingly. Be mindful that one brand of low-sugar pectin, Pomona's, works very differently from the others and will not work here.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
30 Calories
0g Fat
8g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 48 to 64
Amount per serving
Calories 30
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 2mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 7g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 6mg 30%
Calcium 2mg 0%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 16mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)