Classic Strawberry Jam Recipe
To make jam, you need fruit. To make strawberry jam, I drive to the closest strawberry u-pick farm and unleash my powerful elementary-age crew in the fields. Instructions are twofold: “Pick only the red ones” and “Hold the grazing!” My older girl is quite efficient at fruit-picking while the little one tends to daydream and consider grazing. Usually this strategy works to fill the baskets in a timely manner except once in a blue moon when a classic case of strawberry jam existential doubt arises.
Two days ago after an hour of strawberry picking, my girls turned to me and asked “Mom, must we make strawberry jam?” Their chins were smeared with red strawberry juice. Not even a guilty look – just questioning the sacred principle of jamming. Obviously breaking non-grazing rules, abandoning the higher goal of our expedition. Seriously – must we make strawberry jam? Vercingetorix must have that way when his troops fled, chased by the army of Julius Caesar at the battle of Vingeanne in July 52 B.C. Should I concede victory? Did I have enough strawberries for my jamming ambitions? It looked like it. “Fine,” I said, handing them an empty cardboard basket, “You can eat in the car whatever you pick in this basket. The rest is mine to turn into jam.” And that’s how my kitchen became a strawberry jam battlefield.
The result – spread on toast (or brioche, yum) with butter – is quite divine and corrupts even the most hardened strawberry-grazing kid. Here is the recipe in 3 ingredients, 6 steps, and a precautionary note on copper pans.
A Note on Copper Pans
Before I get started, you need to know I always use a copper pan to make my jams. It’s a big not-so-secret jam-making secret in the jam universe because the kind of chemical magic that happens between the copper, sugar, and fruit acid just doesn’t happen with other kinds of metals. Even the celebrated Blue Chair Fruit jams are made in copper kettles. In my family, jams are a seasonal tradition usually heralded by my dad. Therefore getting your own copper pan is a rite of passage that shows that you’re ready to fly away on your own spatulas. Sure enough when I graduated from college, my Maman and Papa offered me a copper pan. It’s the one I use in this recipe. Now most people don’t have copper pans and that’s A-OK. You can use a deep heavy-bottom stainless steel pan instead. It works just fine, however if you find a copper pan on eBay – grab it!
Now with the recipe, a recipe I like to make after dinner so the jam is ready in the morning.
Yield: 6 pint-size jars
- 3 3/4 lbs fresh strawberries, washed and hulled (in that order, about 11 cups)
- 5 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- In a large saucepan, mix the strawberries and the sugar. Mix in the lemon juice and stir with a wooden spatula.
- Slowly bring the mixture to a simmer.
- Stick a small plate in the freezer for the “drip test”.
- Cook for 20 minutes or so and measure the viscosity by letting a drop fall on the plate – out of the freezer, tipping the plate and watching the drop drip. This is roughly the consistency you’ll get on your toast tomorrow morning, that’s how the jam will set.
- When the drop drips slowly enough for your taste, remove from heat and skim off foam.
- Because my girls don’t care for large chunks of fruit in their jam, I half-puree the jam before canning but you don’t need it.
- Fill jars with warm jam up to 1/2 inch below the lid and sterilize.