Cut your berries in half or quarters if they are large, or leave them whole if they are small. Weigh the prepared fruit and put it in a large kettle or soup pot. My three pints of trimmed berries weighed almost 2 pounds. Weigh out an equal amount of regular sugar and pour over the berries. Stir the sugar and strawberries together, mashing some of the berries to release the juice. Cover and set aside for several hours to allow the juices to start flowing. Refrigerate in very warm weather. Bring the pot to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for about 20 minutes, and then test the jam by spooning a small amount onto a very cold plate. If the jam gels it is ready, if it remains liquid, keep boiling, up to about 30 minutes. Mine took the full 30 minutes. If you are in doubt, keep boiling. Ladle the hot jam (be very careful, it's super hot) into the jars, filling them almost full. Put the lids on and immediately turn the jars upside down. According to Elisa, this will effectively sterilize the contents. When the jam has cooled, turn the jars upright and store in the refrigerator.
It puzzled me that this jam was so simple to make, and bypassed all that rigamarole with the boiling jars, sterilized tongs, etc, etc. I wrote to Elisa to ask her about this, and here's what she said:
I've never heard of anyone, either in Belgium or in France, boiling the jars after filling them. Sometimes they do it before filling them - but just as a way of cleaning them well. But most people nowadays just put them in the dishwasher. To make sure, I checked more than a dozen websites on jam making in French, and none of them mentioned boiling the jars. However, they all said to turn the jars upside down when the jam is cooling down. This creates a vacuum that allows for the conservation of the jam and prevents contamination from bacteria or molds. You know, like when you open a jar for the first time, it makes this popping sound when the vacuum is filled with air? ... and the extremely high sugar content stops the proliferation of bacteria (this is why historically sugar is used for food preservation - just like salt or vinegar). AND, my biggest argument: people in France and Belgium have been doing it like this forever and we're perfectly fine :-)So there you have it, straight from an expert, the European method of making jam is a lot simpler and, as Elisa says, they've been doing it forever. That said, I think I'll be using it for small batches that I intend to keep in the refrigerator and eat relatively soon. But maybe that's just the ugly American in me talking ;)
The scones are my Light and Airy Oat Scones, the perfect foil for strawberry jam. Since my berries were so small, I left them whole, and didn't mash the fruit too much during the cooking, so I got nice big chunks of strawberry in my jam.
I am so excited to get more fruit at this weekend's farmer's market and try a couple of different varieties. Elisa sent along the recipe for one of her favorites, Peach and Vanilla Jam, and I'll share that with you next week.