A love of strawberries is inherent in my family. Even though my Dad had an allergy to them, he loved them. My Mom would say, “Now Bud, if you eat that strawberry shortcake you know what will happen.” Then my Dad would reply, “Well, maybe this time it will be okay.” Ever the optimist, that was my father. Well that, and he had an insatiable sweet tooth. My Mom would shake her head, smile and then later hold her tongue AND make him a bicarbonate of soda when he complained that his stomach was upset.
Luckily, this allergy passed by the rest of us and every spring I look forward to strawberry picking – and eating. Strawberries can be grown pretty much any place in the US with harvests in my part of “south by southeast” starting in March (actually this year the crop came due early because of the warm winter). I made this easy strawberry jam with the addition of lemon thyme that grows profusely in a container on my front porch. Strawberry and lemon flavors go so well together, don’t you think?
Strawberry Lemon Thyme Jam
- 10 cups of fresh, cleaned and crushed (but not pureed) strawberries
- 6 cups plus 2 Tbl. Sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon (save rinds)
- Fresh lemon thyme – about ½ cup, washed
- 4 Tbl. dry fruit pectin like Sure-Gel
- 2/3 cup water
Makes 10-12 half pint jars.
Pour lemon juice, water and 2 tbl. sugar in a small saucepan. Stir and to a simmer. Add in the thyme and continue to simmer about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.
To crush strawberries: you can either use a potato masher and do this by hand a little at a time or use a food processor with the plastic blade and pulse to gently crush/chop the berries. Do not over do this or you will get puree. You should be able to see small pieces of berry.
To sterilize jars, lids and rings: wash the jars, rings and lids in hot soapy water and rinse well. (If I am using a lot of jars, I use the dishwasher. I time it so the cycle is going through the hot rinse or the hot dry cycle as I am preparing the jam.) Fill a large pot with water and heat. Place the clean hot jars, lids and rings in the hot water and bring to a boil. After 2 minutes of boiling, keep the jars and lids simmering in the hot water bath until just before you are ready to fill the jars. You can remove the rings and cool on a towel.
In a large pot heat all of the crushed fruit over medium heat. Stir in the fruit pectin and bring up to a boil. Stir. Add 6 cups of sugar all at once and keep stirring. Bring back to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer.
You can now start skimming the froth off the top of the mixture using a large spoon. You may remove a lot of froth. Skim until you are satisfied and then skim a little more.
Strain the cooled lemon thyme mixture into the fruit and stir well. Bring back up to a low boil (keep stirring slowly) and then simmer again.
At this point you need to remove the hot jars from their water bath and place on an absorbent, flat towel. I use regular tongs to remove the jars but there are special canning jar lifters you can buy that will be easier, especially if your jars are large. I find regular long tongs are fine for small ½ pint size jars. Have some extra paper towels, dish towels and pot holders close by.
When you get the batch of jars out of the water, fill them with the jam leaving at least ¼ inch of space at the top. If you have dripped any jam around the jar edges wipe away the excess especially around the top. It will be very hot so use a pot holder to hold the jar with one hand and wipe with the other.
Pull the lids from the hot water bath and allow excess water to drop onto a kitchen towel and then place on the filled jar. Use a ring to screw down the lids. Again use pot holders!
Some people do another step whereas they put the sealed jars back into another hot water bath, bring to a boil, remove and allow to cool. Since I use new lids every time and always check that a seal has been made on each jar I do not do this.
However, you do need to check that a seal has been made for each jar. To do this, lightly push on the top center of each jar after it has been filled for at least 15 minutes. If the lid pops up with your touch, it isn’t sealed and if it doesn’t, it has been sealed.
If it has not sealed, check back after another 20-30 minutes. If after 2 hours a jar and lid have not sealed, you will need to replace the lid and seal and place the entire jar in a hot water bath (boiling water) for 6-8 minutes. In all the years I have made preserves, jams and pickles I have never had to do this. Use quality jars and new lids. The rings and jars can be used many times over but new lids are the key to a proper seal.
NOTE: This jam is not super thick and when cooled it will be chunky but not of a jelled consistency, which is the way we like it in my family. Also, I would avoid making this (or anything using the hot water bath method of canning) with small children under foot for obvious reasons. Thank you!