Since school’s been out, we’ve slid comfortably into slow summer mornings. There’s no rushing to pack lunches, brush teeth, comb hair, or catch the bus, but there’s still a fair amount of persuasion needed to get the kids out of the house. Recently, I motivated them with the promise of juicy strawberries and fresh whipped cream, and – it worked! – we were on our way to Quonset View Farm in minutes.
Our plan was to pick our own, and to get as many berries as possible in the least amount of time. With our row assignment understood, off we went to pluck the big, plump berries. Sometimes larger berries can have less flavor, but a quick sampling revealed their perfection. Twenty minutes and 12 pounds later, we took our haul back home.
Berries and cream were had, as promised, but with the mounds of fresh fruit we’d harvested, I decided that jam would be an easy way to preserve some for the future. As a kid I’d make it with my mom and grandmother. We’d sit around the pool, methodically cutting off the green tops and quartering the berries we’d picked earlier in the day, fingers stained red and dripping with juice. I vividly remember the smell of the strawberries cooking down on the stove. The sweetness hit as soon as you came near the house, and in the kitchen, the candied smell was almost too much to take.
As and adult, now I know why. I was horrified to learn just how much sugar goes into jam. Recipe after recipe calls for 6 or 7 cups of sugar – more than the volume of strawberries needed! Since I only had about half as much sugar on hand as I needed on this particular day, I experimented with a different ratio. I found that the berries themselves lend plenty of sweetness for my taste, and cooking them down for an hour condenses the flavor beautifully. The following recipe isn’t as thick as traditional jams, but it’s still plenty sweet, sticky, and delicious.
Kate’s Strawberry Jam
makes about 4 cups
6 cups fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 – 3 1/2 cups sugar
Rinse strawberries to remove any dirt and debris. Remove hulls, then cut berries into quarters. In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients and place on stove over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low, finding a steady rolling boil. Simmer until most of the liquid has cooked off, about one hour.
Carefully pour mixture into glass jars and allow to cool completely before placing the lids on. Jam can be kept in the fridge for up to four months or stored in the freezer indefinitely.