Step 1: Pick a crate full of fresh strawberries from a farm down the road. Eat copious amounts while picking. Watch your kids so they don’t take strawberries out of the neighbor’s baskets.
Step 2: Bring the red-stained kids and crates of strawberries home. Rinse them and cut their tops off. (The berries, not the kids!)
Step 3: Prepare your work area. Gather sugar, berries, pectin, freshly washed jars and lids, and plenty of towels in case you make a mess. I like to use a double layer of towels over the counter top for hot items, like when I’m filling the jars with jam. It’s also a good idea to move away any nice rugs. Replace them with towels if you don’t want to be scrubbing bits of sticky jam from the floor.
Step 4: Smash the berries. To do this you can either use a potato masher and a small bowl, doing one cup at a time, or you can use a food mill/grinder. I used the grinder attachment for my mom’s kitchen-aid stand mixer. The saran wrap is there for a good reason – when you push strawberries down the chute, sometimes the juice will ROCKET out of the grinder’s end. If you aren’t a fan of cleaning up huge, stain-making messes, I’d put some saran wrap over your catching bowl and the grinder.
Step 5: Follow the directions on the inside pamphlet for the pectin. This recipe called for 5 cups of smashed berries, 7 cups of sugar, and a tablespoon of butter (to keep the foam tamed). First, I heated the fruits, pectin, and butter to a boil in a large saucepan. Then I added the sugar, stirring constantly, and brought it to a rolling boil again. After one minute of boiling and stirring, I removed it from the heat source.
Step 6: This whole time I was grinding and measuring and stirring, I had the hot water bath (my pressure canner filled halfway with water and a dash of vinegar to help with the hard water) sterilizing my clean jars. As soon as the jam finished its final boil, I removed the hot jars from the water with tongs. I lined them up and used a ladle and funnel to fill each jar to within a 1/2-inch of the top. Then I wiped the rims clean with a damp rag and popped the hot lids (take a dipper of the canner water and put the lids in a bowl with it) on. A quick screw, and the jars were ready to go back into the hot water bath, where they stayed for 10 minutes.
Step 7: Remove the hot, filled jars from the water bath. I like to set mine on that double layer of towels, and I drape another towel over top so the jars cool slowly. A quickly cooling jar is liable to crack or explode under the pressure. Leave them alone for at least 12 hours. You’ll hear popping sounds. Every pop means a sealed jar. Check them the next morning. Any that haven’t sealed can go into the refrigerator to be used up right away, or you can try to re-can them in fresh jars with fresh lids.
Step 8: Kick back with your family and eat the rest of the strawberries. You can make tarts, rhubarb crunch, shortcake, muffins, pancakes, shakes, smoothies, ice cream sundaes, syrups, pies… all sorts of fun goodies. We decided to try a few of them in champagne. Oh my goodness, was that yummy! I highly recommend it. Let the strawberries soak in it for a while, then when you eat them they are all bubbly and delicious. Hoorah for strawberries!