How to Make Strawberry Jam...with a Slice of Humble Pie

Posted on 01/07/16 by Melissa K. Norris


When my husband and I first got married, our favorite box at Christmas was the box from his grandmother. It was filled with her home-canned jars of pickles, popcorn balls, cookies, and strawberry jam. 

As I progressed in my canning, I made my own batch of strawberry jam. I knew this was the most coveted by my husband, and the few jars we got from his grandmother didn’t last us all year. Knowing we could easily eat two full batches of a jam in a year, I decided to save time and make one large batch with all the berries.

I followed the instructions step by step. Eager, I stirred the pot, waiting for the glorious moment when it began to set and jell.

It didn’t. I let it simmer longer. And longer.

Maybe it jells after you can it and it cools down, I thought. I ladled my sweet-smelling mixture into my jars, wiped the rims clean, and screwed the rings down over the lids. Onto the rack and submerged into the water bath they went. The processing time ticked by on the clock.

I pulled the gorgeous ruby-filled jars out and set them on a towel to cool. Unable to wait the full 24 hours you’re supposed to before touching them (you can disturb the sealing process), I opened one of the jars. 

Taste test. Perfect. Lick-your-spoon-in-danger-of-eating-the-entire-jar good.

Except one little thing. It was runny. 

I’d successfully canned over eight pints of strawberry syrup.

With my jam-making skills in serious humble mode, I asked his grandmother if I could come down for a lesson. She eagerly agreed.

Lesson number one in jam-making: You can make only one batch at a time when using regular store-bought pectin. Even though it’s the same ratio of ingredients, you cannot double a batch. It won’t set. 

If you want to try your hand at canning strawberry jam, here’s the recipe from The Made-from-Scratch Life (available next month!)…

Strawberry Jam 

Makes approximately 4 pints 

- 8 cups strawberries
- 3 cups sugar
- Zest from 2 lemons
- ¼ cup lemon juice*

Wash jars and bands in hot soapy water. Place canning lids in a saucepan, cover with water, and heat on medium-low heat. Fill water-bath canner with water and put on medium heat. 

Mash berries with a potato masher, blender, or immersion blender to desired consistency. I prefer mine chunky, but my husband likes it more pureed. 

Place berries, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest into large pot. Stir until well combined. Bring berries to a boil. Grandma’s note: If jam starts to foam, add a pat or two of butter to cut the foam. 

Stir frequently to keep sugar from scorching. Simmer on a low boil for 10 minutes. 

You can test the set of the jam by the sheeting test. Place a metal spoon in the freezer when you begin making your jam. After the 10 minutes of boiling, use the chilled metal spoon to ladle out a spoonful of jam. Hold the spoon and watch the way the jam drips off of the spoon. If it’s little individual drops, the jam is not set. If it’s big goops, it’s almost there. If it comes off the spoon in a sheet or doesn’t really drop off at all, then the jam is set—yank that baby off the heat! Jam will continue to thicken up, or set in canning lingo, as it cools. 

Place jars on a dish towel. Fill jars, leaving a ¼-inch headspace. A canning funnel will be your best friend during this part. With a clean, damp towel, wipe down rim of jar. Place lids on and screw bands down until finger-tight.

Immerse jars in water-bath canner inside the canning rack, making sure water covers the tops of the jars by 1 to 2 inches. Once water is boiling, set timer for 10 minutes and allow jars to process. 

When time is up, turn off heat. After 5 minutes, remove jars from canner. Place on a towel folded in thirds in a draft-free area. Allow to cool and set overnight or for at least 12 hours. Check seals. If the center of the lid gives, then store in the fridge and eat soon.

If jars are sealed, wipe down with a damp cloth and store in the pantry out of the light for up to a year.

*Nature provides pectin for us in citrus and apples (especially green apples). Lemon is an excellent natural pectin source, it keeps your cost down, has no chemicals added to it, and pairs so wonderfully with fruits, making an exceptional tasting jam and jelly. 


Find a whole collection of ideas for simple living in The Made-from-Scratch Life.

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