I've finally given out all the jam that I made to give away as Christmas presents. Let me tell you a bit about it now.
I got two large cartons of strawberries, two cartons of blackberries, and two cartons of raspberries (about 8 cups of fruit total) and some lemons (for juice) at the grocery store. I also got a dozen 4 Oz Jelly Jars and a package of pectin.
The pectin package had jelly making instructions, but I used an online tutorial (with some personal modifications) to make my jam.
1. Boil your jars for 10 minutes to sterilize them. I did not have a pot big enough for this, so I sealed up my sink, put the jars in, and poured boiling water from a few pots onto them. Then I set the timer. There are pots made specifically for boiling jars, but I don't make jam often enough to merit spending $30 on something like that, so I improvised.
2. While your jars are sterilizing, rinse your fruit, cap your strawberries, and toss them in a food processor or blender. Don't blend the fruit into oblivion. Just get it mashed up.
3. Now pour your mashed up berries into a large pot. I used a ceramic Dutch oven on top of my stove. You want something that heats evenly. I like my Dutch oven, because I know it's less likely to scorch my food.
4. Squirt in some fresh lemon juice to act as a natural preservative. I used about a quarter cup. NOTE: Don't lick the lemon juice off your fingers. I don't know if other people suffer from the horrible urge to lick lemon juice off their fingers, but any time I cook with it, I always wanna put my fingers in my mouth. It's a weird thing from childhood that would have Dr. Freud going bonkers, I'm sure, but just don't do it! The whole reason you boiled everything is because you need everything super sterile for the jam to keep without chemically preservatives.
5. Set your jars out to dry before you turn on the heat on your fruit.
6. Toss your lids (oh, yeah! Those!) in a pan of boiling water. You only need an inch or two of water. Boiling them softens the seals and sterilizes them, too.
7. Bring those berries (or whatever other fruit your using) to a gentle boil and add your pectin. The amount you use depends on how much fruit your using and the brand of pectin you get. That's where the instructions from the package come in handy. My pectin package had me make "calcium water" by mixing a powder pack with some water and then adding the pectin to that. It wasn't hard to do, but not all pectins are like that, so read them instructions.
8. Okay. Boil that stuff and add sugar. You use a lot of sugar to make jam. Like. A lot. My eyes popped about a foot out of my head when I read how much the online tutorial I found wanted me to use. I cut it in half, and I think my jam wound up being very fruity tasting, but not sugary, which is what I wanted. I used 2 cups of sugar with my jam. But I guess you can use up to 4 cups, based on the tutorial I found (PS I would link it, but I can't find it now! It's been a couple months since I made the jam.)
9. Bring this to a rolling boil and stir it CONSTANTLY!!! A rolling boil, I learned recently, is a boil so strong that it doesn't seem to notice that you are stirring like a maniac.
10. After you've boiled for 7 minutes or so, pour your jam into your jars. This was the part I had the hardest time with. I suggest getting a jar funnel. They're about $2 and you can find them at most larger stores (Target, Wal-Mart, etc). I didn't have one, so I was spooning everything into my jars. It took a while. Anyway, fill your jars up and leave about a quarter inch of space at the top. Then slap on those nice sealing lids you boiled (everything is hot when you make jam. Prepare to lose a layer of skin off your palms.), and screw them on tightly.
11. Boil your closed jars for 10 minutes. Yup. I used the sink method again.
12. Set your sealed jars in a dark, cool spot and leave them alone. You'll get to hear bizarre popping sounds as they cool. That's the jar being sucked down and sealing more completely. If you can pop the button on the lid after a couple of hours, it didn't seal. No biggie. Just boil it and cool it again. All my jars sealed within thirty minutes.
There you have it. Very Berry Jam by Bea. Label it however you want and feel like the domestic god/goddess you are!