May 30, 2014

make jam. have a taste.So, in the midst of dealing with the Final Pass (the last chance to see the book before it goes to the printer), I was itching to make some strawberry jam. For some reason, this was the worst, absolute worst, round of edits. I have no idea why, but other writers have concurred, so I feel okay saying it out loud here.

Now that it’s over, I am going to clean my office (I have a NEW DESK!), read a crime drama, and make some jam, just for fun.

three ingredientsLast weekend, I made some strawberry jam and Instagrammed and Facebook’ed the process. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever done. The kitchen was a disaster. I was jumping from phone to computer because I didn’t plan a thing. I practically passed out trying to get the jam to set, the canning timed, and tried valiantly to get the “ping” which did not happen.

The whole thing was pretty hilarious behind the scenes. With some careful editing, I’ve put together the whole stream in three short video clips. Because I am the Wilma Flintstone of video editing, I can’t figure out how to put text on the clips….

polished strawberry jam

Making Strawberry Jam

Day one:
Select 3 pounds of strawberries. About one-quarter should be under-ripe.  Stem and hull the berries and crush them in a large bowl with 3 cups of sugar and the juice of one lemon. Add herbs if you wish. Mint, thyme or lemon verbena work – no more than four or five stalks. Cover and refrigerate until the next day.


Day Two:

Bring a large deep pot of water to a boil. The recipe will make 3-1/2 or 4 half pint jars of jam. Boil the jars in the water for at least 10 minutes. Leave them in the hot water until you’re ready to fill.

Pour the strawberry mixture into a colander set inside a heavy bottomed 5 quart or larger pot.  Remove the colander and set inside a bowl to catch any remaining syrup. 

Bring the syrup to 220F. (The video shows the boil at 190°F, then at 210°F, and finally at 220°F.) At 220°F, the boil is so strong, it’s called “the boil that will not stir down.”

Add the berries and stir well. Bring back to that big robust boil that will not stir down.  Get a small saucepan of water boiling. Add the rings. Turn the heat off under the saucepan and add the lids to soften the rubber gasket.

Cook at that strong boil until the foam has nearly cleared and the jam is set. Add a pinch (about 1/2 teaspoon) of butter to polish it and remove the foam. Stir until the foam is gone (don’t scrape the sides of the pan or the bottom.)

Ladle the jam into the sanitized jars leaving a 1/2 inch headspace. Clean the rim of each jar well then add a new lid. Finger tighten the ring (the rings may be reused). Lower the jars upright into the canning kettle, covering them by 1 inch of water (add the extra from the saucepan – it’s already been heated to a boil) and, once the water is back to a robust boil, set the timer for 10 minutes.

Remove the jars from the water bath and set them upright on a towel. Listen for the pinging noise telling you the seal has formed. Let the jars cool completely before labeling, dating and storing in a cool, dark spot for up to one year.

C’mon, make some strawberry jam this weekend. 


Look at the W. W. Norton booth at the Book Expo. OMG, it’s real!

BEA 2014


15 Responses to “strawberry jam cook along”

  1. Sharon Naulty


    You are truly inspirational….I am so THRILLED for you and your success…..Can’t wait to buy and have you autograph the book…..Enjoy your success….You have worked your A___ off…….

    Sharon Naulty

  2. Mary-Denise Smith

    Damn! I’ve been whining all week about not getting to Book Expo this year, and you give me yet another reason to bellyache about it! Hearty congratulations. Hope to see you at the Greenbelt Farmers Market.

  3. Kirsten

    I was driving over to Maryland the other day, lost in thought, when I realized that I could sure go for some strawberry jam.
    I think I’ll pick up a flat at Larriland on the way home to Ohio and spend my day-after-trip jammin’.

    Excited about your book!

  4. Gail

    Such a great tutorial, Cathy, particularly for those who’ve never submerged a glass jar in boiling water! Gee, who could that be???????

  5. Lara

    How well does the jam set without the addition of pectin? Are you able to leave it out because you add the step of cooking down the syrup?

    • Cathy

      Lara, great question. It’s not a firm set jam. It’s a softer, slumping set. Yes, bringing the syrup to the soft-ball stage (220°F) assists in the set.

  6. ksb

    What in general is the yield in jarred jam from 3lbs strawberries/3C sugar? Thanks

  7. Bonnie

    fabulous recipe. Now would like to make seedless strawberry jam. how and when should I remove the seeds. thanks!

    • Cathy

      To remove the seeds, run the fruit through a food mill before adding it back to the boiling syrup. This will reduce your yield — to three one half-pint jars.

      • Bonnie

        thanks Cathy, I used the fine strainer on the oxo food mill I have. While it didn’t remove all the seeds, I’m sure my [young adult] son will be elated to have mostly seedless strawberry jam.
        Maybe next season I’ll make the leap to adding a few sprigs.

  8. David Davia

    Saw the article in the Orlando Sentinel referring to you site. I have access to a 5-acre field full of blackberries. I preserve many jars of jelly every year and was thinking it might be fun to enter my jelly in the state fair. The problem is that there is nothing special (I follow the directions from the pectin package). The only think unique is that I strain the fruit so that one doesn’t have to eat the little seeds normally associated with blackberries and they are completely wild, picked straight from the field. EVERYONE likes the jelly. But how would I have a chance to win anything in the fair doing something that anyone can do?



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