I know, strawberry season is a distant memory at this point. But I hope you’ve got a few stashed away in the freezer because, on my third summer of making jam, I’ve finally figured out a basic strawberry jam that I really, really love.
A few months ago, I saw a demo by Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars, the primary resource I’ve used to learn about canning. One of the best points she made was that when people want to learn to make preserves, the first things they try are strawberry jam and cucumber pickles–two of the hardest recipes to get right. I’m not a cucumber pickle fan (though I’m acquiring a taste for them), but I can attest that the strawberry jam I’ve made the past two years was more like strawberry sauce. Tasted good, but not quite what I wanted.
Turns out that since strawberries naturally are low in pectin, they either require more sugar or added pectin to get a real jammy texture. I don’t particularly like the idea of using essentially equal parts sugar and fruit, so I didn’t want to go that route. I don’t like dealing with pectin packets, but what about adding another fruit that’s really high in pectin? Here I took a cue from my favorite fall preserve, cranberry conserve, that sets amazingly well (in part because cranberries have a ton of pectin) and keeps its gorgeous red color. And how convenient, last fall I stuck a gallon bag of cranberries in the freezer.
I’m not sure where I saw the initial idea to combine strawberries and cranberries, but let me tell you, while this takes a little forethought (either finding cranberries in summer or good strawberries in late fall), it is 100% worth it. The cranberries help set the texture of the jam, they contribute to the beautiful color, and they provide a little sour contrast to what can otherwise be a one-note preserve.
So while strawberry season may be over, I hope you’ll keep this in mind come fall when cranberries are everywhere. Use frozen strawberries to make this jam or freeze a few bags of cranberries for next spring. (Tangent: this was the project I used to break in my new kitchen–can I just say how much I love having an island? Everyone should have one of these! This jam also made a great gift to introduce myself to my new neighbors. Tangent the second: a nice little profile from Paper/Plates on yours truly with some fun book and food questions.)
This works perfectly fine with fresh or frozen strawberries or cranberries, and can easily be halved. Makes about five 1/2 pint jars.
6 cups quartered strawberries (about 2 pounds)
2 1/4 cups cranberries (about 1/2 pound)
1 3/4 cups sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1 small pat of butter (optional)
If you plan to preserve this jam with a waterbath, prepare your pot of simmering water, jars, and lids. Here’s my basic setup.
In a large pot, combine cranberries, strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. If the jam begins to foam too much, add a small sliver of butter. When the jam begins to thicken, (carefully!) scoop out 1 to 2 cups and puree with a stick blender (or use a regular blender with the top covered with a towel to contain splatters). Return the puree to the pot and continue to cook until the jam is thick and around 216 to 220 degrees. Taste the jam to see if it needs another little squeeze of lemon juice.
Funnel jam into prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch space at the top of the jars. Clean edges of any errant jam drips, place lids on jars, and screw rings on finger-tight. Return the jars to the simmering water and bring to a boil. Process for 10 minutes, remove jars, and allow to cool.