At Swanton Berry Farm, it’s incredibly easy to pick strawberries.  Not only were the berries plentiful in mid-May, they were raised from the ground to require less bending.  The downside of such ease is figuring out what to do with 40 pounds of strawberries.

For those of you with prodigious freezer space, the easy option is to freeze them.  Simply hull the strawberries.  Lay them out on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper (they should look like this), and stick it in the freezer for at least six hours.  Then you can put them in a resealable freezer bag and use as needed.  When defrosted, the berries will be mushier and wetter but they still have the fresh flavor and work great mixed into yogurt, on top of ice cream and as an accompaniment to pound cake.  (Psst—this works well for all berries)

While freezing may make a dent in your strawberry haul, very few freezers can hold a whole 40 pounds worth.  This is where making jam comes in.  Strawberries are a classic fruit to jam, and they work well with tart, acidic flavors like lemon or even balsamic vinegar.  They will also work well with spicy flavors like cinnamon or cardamom.  The 40 pounds yielded about 36 half pint (8 oz) jars of jam.  Your jars should look like this.

I used the recipe from the Ball Jar website.

5 cups crushed strawberries (about 5 lb.—I find it’s easiest to hull and cut the strawberries in half and then use a pastry cutter to mash them. They should not be completely pureed.

1/4 cup lemon juice

6 tbsp Powdered Pectin

7 cups granulated sugar

8 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

Directions:

1.) Use a large pot that can hold the jars with about two inches of water above them.  Fill the pot with water and the jars, and bring to a simmer.  Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.

2.) COMBINE strawberries and lemon juice in a 6 or 8-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in pectin. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that can not be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.  This should take about 45 minutes.

3.) ADD entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Use the plate test (put a small plate in the freezer and put a drop of jam on the cold plate.  Let it sit for about 10 seconds and run your finger through the jam.  If the jam is thick enough that your finger makes a streak that holds then the jam is thick enough).

plate test

4.) LADLE hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.

5.) PROCESS in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

Delicious Variations

Vanilla Strawberry Jam:

Add half a vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise, to the crushed strawberries. Cook as directed and remove vanilla bean before ladling jam into jars. The resulting jam will be enhanced with subtle yet distinct vanilla overtones.

Strawberry Balsamic Jam:

Reduce the lemon juice to 1 tbsp, and add 3 tbsp good-quality balsamic vinegar. Balsamic vinegar accents the strawberry flavor and gives the jam a robust taste.  Add ½ tsp of pepper.

Lemony Strawberry Jam:

Add the grated zest of 1 large lemon to the crushed strawberries.

Spiced Strawberry Jam:

Stir ½ tsp ground cinnamon, ½ tsp ground allspice and ½ tsp red pepper flakes into the cooked jam just before ladling it into the jars.

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