Can I use this recipe for my first foray into canning? Can I still include the butter? Is it necessary to add powdered fruit pectin?

Cristina Sciarra
My Mother's Strawberry Jam
Recipe question for: My Mother's Strawberry Jam


Merrill S. June 15, 2013
Thanks for all of your helpful comments on the recipe. I use Ball jars if I'm processing, but more often I make a single batch of this jam, keep it in the fridge and try and use it up quickly, as it is better fresh.
Bevi June 14, 2013
I just finished a round of canning. I made the Strawberry Balsamic Jam from The Blue Chair, and my own concoction of Strawberries, a bit of rhubarb from my poor little pitiful plant, lemon verbena, and vanilla bean. I make sure the berries are organic. I did not use pectin, and found the jam texture to be perfect. I would be interested in other opinions: do you find that when making strawberry jam, fruit that has been macerated in sugar cooks more quickly into jam than non-macerated fruit?

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SeaJambon June 13, 2013
Okay, so I should have read the recipe thoroughly before commenting (sorry folks! but going by the comment string, I'm not alone in this faux pas). I don't see any pectin in the recipe, but I do see juice of half a lemon -- that lemon juice is your jelling agent (and it will also help in keeping the jam's bright color). Shouldn't need additional pectin (but follow the recipe on testing for "jelled" with the frozen plate). The butter here is incidental to the recipe and many recipes with commercial pectin call for a touch of butter or margarine to keep the jam from foaming. Alternately, you can delete the butter (it isn't important for taste or quality -- just for anti-foaming) and skim any foam that develops (a stainless spoon works best for that purpose). Also note that the recipe does not detail how to process in a hot water bath (the only approved method for home canning) and it also seems to assume Weck jars (not Ball or Kerr). Personally, I'm not comfortable with the Weck as it can be difficult to know if you've achieved a proper seal. So, for Ball or Kerr, sterilize jars per directions except don't boil the round lids (just the outer rings); for the round lids, place in a large, flat, container and pour boiling water over. They should sit for the period everything else is boiling.

For water bath processing, bring a large pot of water to a boil (if you aren't using a canning kettle with wire insert, place something on the bottom of the pot so that when you insert the jars they don't touch the bottom of the pot -- direct heat contact can cause them to break. A friend has tied together a bunch of the canning jar rings and uses them at the bottom of the pot). Fill your jars, carefully wipe clean the rims, screw on tops, place in boiling water (the water should cover the jars by at least one inch) and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from water and place on a dish towel to cool (dish towel helps keep a cold counter from "shocking" the hot glass and causing it to break). Soon you should hear little pings -- this is a good noise that occurs as the jam cools and the seal happens. When thoroughly cooled (some say allow 24 hours), press up and down on the lid (we call this the "trampoline test") -- there should be no give. Those with no give are good seals; if any spring back like a trampoline you have a bad seal. A bad seal simply means that it can't be stored in the cupboard but needs to be in the fridge -- so enjoy those ones first. And, if after all the cooling you find that you didn't get a good jell, don't fuss, just consider this a wonderful strawberry sauce (think ice cream toppings; waffles...)

Again, good luck and happy canning!
SeaJambon June 13, 2013
In my Master Food Preserver course we were given a list of fruits and their various pectin qualities -- from fruits that practically jell by themselves, to those that are naturally so low in pectin that they need the assist. Pectin occurs naturally in fruit, and occurs more in under-ripe fruit than ripe -- some fruits are naturally very high and others not so much. Before processed pectin, our grandmothers knew about the green apple method and other tricks for low pectin fruit (Blue Chair Jam doesn't use pectin, but she adjusts by adding lots of lemon juice -- citrus fruit is naturally high in pectin, and -- interestingly [at least to me!] the highest amounts are in the pith. Haven't yet figured out how to make pith work, but considering how I use lemon juice in this, and lemon zest in that, I'd love to be able to use lemon pith too!). Anyhow, strawberries are in the "lowest natural pectin" group, so you will want to do something to get a good set -- whether it is commercial pectin, lemon juice, or green apples (any kind that are green, particularly those that are unripe green -- like apples that are red when ripe and you are using their green precedents).

The butter is a different thing altogether and where you may (emphasis on the MAY) run into trouble. My personal rule of thumb is that it is never worth the risk (that's me; others may feel differently, but I'd certainly want to know that anything "gifted" to me was an untested recipe! and would likely thank profusely and avoid). There are food labs around the country that will "test" a recipe for you -- the only way to know that a recipe is safe is to use a tested one (like those in the Ball Blue book or So Easy to Preserve, which was effectively our textbook -- it also includes the pectin level categories for various fruit). I agree with the comments about being careful about using recipes on the internet unless they indicate they are tested. If you go with pectin, the Sure-Jel folks also have a number of tested recipes on their website.

Good luck! Canning is fun and totally worth doing; and, like anything worth doing, it is worth knowing the do's and don'ts.
AntoniaJames June 13, 2013
Especially with strawberries, it helps to include some under-ripe berries, which generally have more natural pectin. ;o)
HalfPint June 13, 2013
Granny Smith apples also has a lot of pectin. Peel and grate or chop, then add to your fruit (you won't notice the apple at all), if you don't want to use commercial pectin.
AntoniaJames June 13, 2013
The recipe says to "process the jars" which means to use canning procedures to make the jars shelf stable. Buy a dozen Ball or Kerr jars and follow the instructions that come with them, to the letter. I.e., don't follow canning instructions you find on the internet as even people who fancy themselves as experts often are careless or uninformed, and tell you to do things you should not. I would not start with strawberry, by the way, at least not for a no-pectin recipe. I'd use a fruit like plums or blueberries with a much higher natural pectin content. Or if I felt that I absolutely had to make strawberry jam, I'd use Cathy Barrow's recipe in the Times last week for strawberry jam that's made a bit firmer with kiwi, which is naturally high in pectin. Just a thought. ;o)
sdebrango June 13, 2013
Thats so interesting AJ, I didn't know that about kiwi, I have only made refrigerator jam, strawberry in particular is always a bit soupy. I will have to try the kiwi.
hardlikearmour June 13, 2013
The Hood strawberries are ripe here, and I'm definitely making Cathy's recipe. Thanks for pointing it out!!
aargersi June 13, 2013
I have used butter in canned jams in the past and it has been fine, this recipe includes lemon and sugar so it should be OK for canning. Make sure to read up on safety measures! Also just FYI - strawberry jam fades after a month or two so even if you can it, eat it up before too long!

I use the Pick Your Own and Ball websited for reference quite a bit. Oh an in The Blue Chair Jam Book - she never uses pectin and she cans everything ...

it's fun, you will be hooked!
sdebrango June 13, 2013
Maybe one of our canning experts will weigh in but I found this online, canning guidelines they say no unless it is a recipe that is tested for safety using the fat. Maybe Merrill's Mom preserved this successfully and she will have an answer.
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