Perfectly ripe, super juicy strawberries are best eaten out of hand or frozen for use in smoothies later. Firm ripe ones are best for preserves because they are higher in pectin. Still, all strawberries are pretty low in pectin and make preserves with a soft, “spoonable” texture. If you like something firmer or more spreadable, you can add about 1 cup of grated green apple to your macerating strawberries to give your preserves a boost of natural pectin. This recipe makes about 5 cups.
3 ½ pounds strawberries
1 ½ pounds sugar
1/3 cup + 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Wash and dry the strawberries. Top them and cut the large ones in half. Combine with sugar, lemon juice, and rose geranium leaves. Macerate and cover at room temp for 4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Place a saucer and 4 metal spoons in your freezer for testing the set of the jam later.
Stir the strawberries to evenly distribute the sugar and transfer to a wide, nonreactive 8-12 quart pot. Place the pot over medium heat and stir frequently for about 5 minutes until the sugar has melted completely, and the strawberries begin to foam. Use a skimmer to carefully remove and discard some of the foam if it looks like it is going to overflow your jam pot. Raise the heat to high at this point and boil rapidly, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot with a silicon spatula occasionally to ensure that the jams are not sticking.
The strawberries will begin to get shiny and thicken after about 20 minutes at a rapid boil. Be very careful to stir and scrape frequently as they begin to get thick. Lower the heat if necessary to prevent scorching. Stir in remaining 1 Tablespoon lemon juice.
Remove it from heat and check its set by placing a small amount on one of your cold metal spoons in the freezer. Return the spoon of jam to the freezer for 3-4 minutes and then remove it to check the set. Drop your cooled spoon of jam onto the plate - if it is thick and gloppy it is done. If the jam still runs, return it to high heat and boil another 3-5 minutes and check again.
Carefully remove any excess foam and discard. Ladle very hot preserves into very hot, sterilized jars and top with hot sterilized lids. (You can sterilize your jars and lids in a steadily simmering hot water bath for 10 minutes.) Process filled jars for 5 minutes in a hot water bath or according to manufacturer’s instructions.
When the preserves are jarred, set aside on a rack at least 1 inch apart and do not disturb for 24 hours. When completely cool, check the lids to see that they sealed properly by pressing the button on the top of the jar. If the button pops back, store the preserves in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage.
© April McGreger, FARMER’S DAUGHTER 2014