Growing up on a hobby farm, the Fall months meant making ‘preserves’ for eating in the long winter months. We used fruits that we either grew or purchased from local farmers. I learned at a very young age how to make jam, fruit butters, and jellies with my Mother.
In those days, that task was very labor intensive. It involved long hours of simmering the fruit in a large pot, on top of the stove. Mom used lemons or apples as a natural source of pectin. Pectin is what makes the jam set. After the jam thickened, Mom poured it into sterilized jars and then sealed each of the jars using hot paraffin wax. My job was to cut pieces of string and carefully place them into the middle of the hot paraffin. Later it was used to pull the cold wax seal from the jar in order to access the delicious home made preserves.
Things have become a lot easier in our modern world. Today we have two types of jam that we can make and both are very easy. There is boiled, which is stored in glass jars with sterilized two piece lids and no cook jam which does not require any cooking.
Kids love being involved in the kitchen. Today’s conveniently packaged pectin, makes jam making easy with the little ones. Even if you are a new cook you will be in and out of the kitchen within half an hour. Here is a simple recipe for quick and easy Strawberry Freezer Jam. I chose strawberries because they are available year round at most grocery stores.
For best results use your berries within 24 hours after purchase. The kids can help out by counting the cleaned berries and putting them into pie plates. Let each child take a turn crushing the berries with a potato masher and measuring them into a glass measuring cup. Once you have added the sugar and pectin, let them help stir the mixture.
Strawberry Freezer Jam
1 quart strawberries, cleaned
4 cups granulated sugar
1 pouch of liquid pectin specifically for freezer jam
2 tbsp lemon juice
1. Remove the stems and crush the strawberries one layer at a time using a potato masher. Using a pie plate makes the mashing an easy surface to work on. Measure 1 ¾ cups of berries into a large bowl.
2. Add the sugar to the fruit and mix it well. Let it stand for 10 minutes.
3. Stir in the liquid fruit pectin and lemon juice. Stir the jam until the sugar is dissolved.
4. Carefully pour ladle the jam into clean plastic jars or plastic containers. Plastic is best if you are going to freeze your jam. Glass can break once it is frozen. A preserving funnel (a wide-bottomed funnel available at most cookware or hardware stores) will make the job easier.
5. Do not over fill your containers. You want to make sure there is enough space to allow the jam to freeze properly without expanding and popping the lids off in the freezer. In order to have your jam set properly. Use jars or plastic containers that hold approximately 1 cup.
6. Let the jam set at room temperature until it sets. That could take 24 hours. Store in the freezer. The jam may also be stored in the refrigerator if you intend on eating it within three weeks. The recipe makes 5 cups.
While the jam is setting get your kids to design their own labels and decorative tops. My kids liked to use store stickers, brown craft paper with twine for tying, bits of scrap fabric also work with an elastic band holding it in place and then tied with a piece of string or ribbon. My boys decorated paper lunch bags using markers and rubber stamps. You can imagine how pleased their grandparents were to receive this gift.
Whether you keep it or give it away as a gift there is nothing quite like the taste of home-made preserves on a piece of toast. Preserving with kids is a great family activity.
*Tip: Making jam is a great activity for a kid’s birthday party. It is even more fun and educational for the kids to go to a farm and pick their own fruit.
*Check out ‘Beatrice and the Snow People’ a great chapter book for ages 9-11. It's available online.
Strawberries are the angels of the earth, innocent and sweet with green leafy wings reaching heavenward. ~Terri Guillemets