You know how the moon looks bigger when it’s close to the horizon? Because you normally don’t have context to show you how big it actually is? That’s what it’s like when you’re staring at boxes of strawberries. We went for an afternoon of strawberry picking, and came back with 4 gallons of big juicy berries. 4 gallons of berries is objectively absurd, but when they’re just four nice boxes in amongst hundreds of other boxes, it’s hard to not thing “4 4 quart boxes? 16 quarts? That seems totally reasonable. I love strawberries, we’ll eat these all up.”
After a few days of berries on cereal, berry garnishes, berries for a snack, berries for dessert, berries for doorstops…you run out of fresh berry ideas. The next step in strawberry evolution is making jam. It can be an intimidating process, you’ve probably heard someone who knows someone that had a jar explode on them, or spilled hot jam all over the place. Like the moon on the horizon, those stories are blown way out of proportion. Making jam is a little time consuming, but otherwise really easy, and your kitchen smells totally amazing. Total disclosure-wise, we made a sort of jam before, so we’d been through the basics, but really – we’re amateurs, making jam is way easier than you’d think.
We’d recommend getting the book “Ball Complete Guide to Home Preserving,” it’s what we used, and it’s great. Their introduction to preserving recipe is for strawberry jam, so it worked out well. The basic process is straight forward, smash up a bunch of berries, add some lemon juice and pectin, bring to a boil, add a boat load of sugar (almost a half a bag), bring it back to a boil, then ladle the hot jam into pre-warmed jars. Put pre-warmed lids on the jars, put all the sealed jars in a big pot of boiling water for fifteen minutes, then let them cool for 24 hours. If you did everything right, the lids should be sealed. Obviously this is a little bit of a simplification, you’ll have to read the book for the details. Take our word for it though, if you find yourself swimming in summer strawberries, consider making jam, it’s easy, and will give you a big blast of summer when you open up a jar in the depths of a Chicago winter.