In the end, we made four different jams: a plain strawberry (Max's request); strawberry rhubarb; strawberry, balsamic vinegar and black pepper; and strawberry-basil.
I screwed up the last couple of batches by waffling back and forth on the pectin issue. I had decided to do it without, since we have this raspberry jam recipe we love that doesn't use pectin. The strawberry rhubarb worked beautifully. But then again, that recipe accounted for the thickness issue by macerating the berries in sugar for 24 hours, then straining the liquid and boiling it down separately. Then you mix the berries in and cook it down a bit and Bob's your uncle. That turned out really well.
But strawberries don't seem to thicken as easily as the raspberries, and so after cooking them for what I deemed "long enough," I was worried the end result would be a runny mess. And so in a panic, I added some pectin. Not in a clever way of an experienced pectin user. Nope. I ignored the instructions to mix the pectin with the sugar, because I already had enough sugar in. Nor did I mix the pectin into a small bit of water first until it dissolved. I just sprinkled some pectin on top, hoping it would mix in. And I did not even think to do this to just ONE of my beautiful batches of jam. I sprinkled it on hoped for the best. This is often my method of cooking, and it usually works out just fine. Not so much for this experiment. I got little globs of gel, some of them an unattractive white color. I ended up boiling it down even longer to try to incorporate all the pectin. And then I strained the jam, trying to catch the pectin blobs, and then went through the big fruit bits and tried to separate them from all the little gel bits that remained. Then I mixed the strained liquid and the good part of the thick jam back together and cooked it down a bit more (just to make sure it was sterilized again, in addition to getting a good consistency). All of this took a very long time. Not to mention that I boiled the heck out of my lovely berries, which was what I had been trying to avoid in the first place.
So it wasn't ideal. But in the end, I got 16 sweet little jars of sunshine. And I think they are all actually really good. And funny enough, the ones with the added pectin are REALLY sticky, a small step down from fruit leathers, actually. I have a feeling the pectin would not have been necessary. But now I know so much more for my next jam adventure.
|Strawberries and rhubarb macerating for Fred and Ginger batch.|
|Fred and Ginger meet at last.|
|Strawberries and rhubarb, bubbling away.|
|First batch of jam complete.|
|Adding a few more berries to what was too small a batch. The only time I thought to take a picture of the beautiful raw berries.|
|Some of my sweet little finished jars of jam.|
|The chickens were very happy with the jam-making compost.|