A few years ago I planted a couple of strawberry plants in the corner of our garden. I loved the idea of having fresh berries at my fingertips. The berries seemed to like it there because they have multiplied significantly, and last year I got tons of berries to eat fresh, freeze, and make into jam.
I use to think the biggest problem with raising strawberries was the weeds associated with them, but this year the biggest problem turned out to be our beloved chickens. It seems as if the chickens have as much love for those bright red, sweet berries as I do.
Initially, it started out as a race to the garden, with me always coming in second place. Shoeing the chickens away didn’t work because they always found their way back to it the minute I turned my attention to something else. Dried out stems, along with green and half-eaten berries were the only proof that big, fat berries once flourished there. Tired of the constant aggravation of patrolling the garden and always coming in second place, I threw in the white flag. And let me tell you defeat is bitter, especially when our dog doesn’t even seem to care.
A trip to our local berry patch helped ease the pain (a little), but the thought of having to pay for berries didn’t set that well. I guess we sacrificed my berries for their fresh eggs – I’m not sure I like that deal. Next year I will be ready for the berry invaders – you can count on that!
If there is one thing I can’t live without, it’s homemade jams and jellies. Honestly, there is nothing like them. Sure, store-bought jams and jellies are okay, but they aren’t as tasty as those you make yourself. For those of you intimidated by making jams and jellies don’t be. They really aren’t that hard.
I prefer to make strawberry freezer jam because it takes less time to prepare than cooked jams and jellies. It also sets a bit softer, and the fruit flavor is amazing since it’s not cooked out of it. First, I start out by stocking up on two key ingredients. Sugar and Sure-Jell fruit pectin.
Of course, you can use any brand of sugar and fruit pectin but I prefer to stick with brand names when making jams and jellies.
You will also need clean containers and lids for your jam. I have always used jars (even for the freezer) but you can use plastic containers if you’re leery about putting glass jars in your freezer.
The recipe for a single batch is as follows:
2 pints of fresh, ripe berries
4 cups of granulated sugar
1 box of Sure-Jell fruit pectin
3/4 cup of water
Wash and dry berries; remove stems, and place berries into a large bowl. This recipe calls for two full cups of crushed berries. Add sugar to berries and let stand for 10 minutes. In a saucepan, add water and pectin. Bring to full boil, and continue to boil for one minute – stirring constantly. Add pectin to berry and sugar mixture. Stir for about 3 minutes, or until sugar is completely dissolved. Immediately pour into containers. Leave about a 1/2 inch of space at the top of the jar for expansion in the freezer. Leave out for 24 hours and then freeze.
* Tip – when making jam or jellies make sure your measurements are exact.
What is your favorite flavor of jam or jelly?