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A Year’s Worth of PB&J [Large Batch Reduced Sugar Strawberry Jam]

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June 27, 2013 by Sara Kreidler

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My stepdaughter is one of my absolute favorite people in the world.  She is fierce and funny and intensely smart. She approaches almost everything she does with a level of confidence that I hope someday to achieve. At the tender age of seven, she is already kicking ass and taking names.

She is also an insanely picky eater.

Oona gags at the sight of any form of potato other than french fries, but will put away a pound and a half of mussels in white wine sauce in under 15 minutes (that’s not an exaggeration).  Oona loves plain shrimp and chicken (no seasoning!), plain noodles (no sauce!), and plain rice (not touching anything else!). But the thing she loves above all else, the thing she would eat for every meal if I allowed her to, is PB&J — especially if the “J” means homemade strawberry jam. No other flavor of jam is acceptable to her, even though her brother and I prefer apricot jam on our PB&Js (I’ll be posting my apricot jam recipe soon).

IMG_1109Last June I turned a flat of strawberries (that’s 8 dry quarts) into seven 12 ounce jars and 10 half pint jars of reduced sugar strawberry jam. For those of you reading that and thinking “that is a ridiculous amount of strawberry jam for one family,” let me tell you that we ran out of jam in early February. So this year, determined to not run out of Oona’s beloved strawberry jam mid-winter, I more than doubled my jam making efforts. That’s right, this year I turned 18 dry quarts of local strawberries into 29 pints of jam. If for some reason Oona decides she no longer digs strawberry jam, everyone I know is getting a jar this holiday season.

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A lot of bloggers and food writers out there promote small batch canning, which makes a lot of sense; it certainly makes the prospect of canning less overwhelming, especially for folks who are new to the process. I seldom do small batches of anything, because (1) I am insane and have some food hoarding tendencies (see Exhibit 1, my larder), (2) I know which preserves my family likes and how much we will need to last us until next year, and (3) if I’m going to go to the work (and, let’s be honest, mess) of putting food up, I’d rather do a big batch than a small one because once I’m in the zone, it’s not much more work to crank out a big batch of something than a small one. This week I received a comment from a reader regarding my post on canning pickled beets, which he found while googling for instructions on canning a full bushel of beets. The reader’s comment made me think that there may be other canners out there looking for large batch instructions. So here is my recipe for a very large batch of strawberry jam that will yield about 29 pints, adapted from last year’s post.  Hopefully, this large batch will make a year’s worth of PB&J sandwiches for my favorite girl.

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Large Batch Reduced Sugar Strawberry Jam

Yields approximately 29 pints
Ingredients
  • 16 dry quarts of strawberries*, divided
  • 20 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 3 boxes of Pamona’s Universal Pectin**
  • 2 cups bottled lemon juice, divided

*Yes, I said in the headnote that I used 18 (and not 16) dry quarts of berries, but I adapted this recipe down to 16 because two flats of strawberries (which you can buy from a farmer’s market or perhaps your CSA) contains 16 dry quarts.

**Please note that this is a reduced sugar strawberry jam (this recipe calls for about half of the amount of sugar than is used in most other strawberry jam recipes).  Most pectins used for making jam require a much larger amount of sugar than is called for in this recipe in order for the pectin to work and the jam to set properly. In order to make a reduced sugar jam, you will need to use Pamona’s Pectin, which is specifically designed for low sugar recipes (in fact you can even use less sugar than I do in my recipe if you’re using Pamona’s Pectin). You cannot substitute another brand of either liquid or powdered pectin here, because there is not enough sugar in this recipe to allow those types of pectin to work properly and your jam will not set. Whole Foods carries Pamona’s Pectin in the spice section, as do many health food stores (Pittsburghers can also find it at the East End Food Co-op). Or you can order it online directly from Pamona’s Pectin.  For the record, I’m not getting paid or perked by Pamona’s Pectin (they have absolutely no idea who I am), but their product is fantastic and is the only one I know of that will work in a reduced sugar jam or jelly recipe.

Instructions
  1. Because the quantity of berries is so large, and because strawberry jam foams up a ton when it is cooking in the jam pot, the easiest way to tackle a large batch like this is to break it into 4 batches.  Divide berries into 4 batches (that’s 4 dry quarts per batch). Rinse, hull and cut the first batch of strawberries into small pieces (the pieces do not need to be uniform, but if you don’t have an immersion blended as called for in step 3, you should chop the berries fairly small).  In a mixing bowl or container (preferably with a lid), combine the chopped strawberries with 2 cups of sugar and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours, but preferably overnight (the longer you let the fruit macerate, the better).  Repeat this process with the other 3 batches of berries.
  2. The next day, get ready to jam. Prep your canning station. I used pint jars, but you can certainly use a smaller sized jelly jar if you prefer.  You will also need to prepare the Pamona’s Pectin calcium water by combining 1/2 teaspoon of the calcium powder with 1/2 cup water in a small jar with a lid and shaking vigorously .
  3. To make your 1st of 4 batches of jam, combine 3 cups of sugar with 4 teaspoons of Pamona’s Pectin powder, mix well and set aside. Pour the first batch of macerated strawberries, which will by now be swimming in beautiful red strawberry syrup, into a wide and deep enameled pot (the bigger the better — the more surface area you have, the faster the jam will cook down and the less chance of the jam bubbling over onto your stove).  Using an immersion blender, give the syrupy strawberry mixture a few whirls; you don’t want to get rid of all of the chunks of strawberry, so just give it a few quick pulses (note, if you finely chopped your strawberries, you may not need to use the blender — this is just a matter of personal preference).  Add 1/2 cup of lemon juice and 4 teaspoons of Pamona’s Pectin calcium water (give the jar a good shake first) to the pot and mix well. Bring mixture to a boil over medium high flame (watch out, it will produce a ton of foam — another reason why a big pot is necessary).  Add the sugar/pectin powder mixture to the pot and stir constantly for about 2 minutes so that the sugar and pectin dissolve completely.  Bring jam back up to a full boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat.
  4. Fill the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top, and process for 10 minutes.
  5. While the jam is processing, wash and dry your jam pot and utensils. When the first batch of jars are finished processing, remove them from the canning pot and repeat steps 3 and 4 with the remaining 3 batches of strawberries.
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