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Friday, September 6, 2013

* Strawberry Banana Jam

Strawberries are in season and I always make at least one batch of jam every spring.  My favorite recipe is one of my mother’s recipes that also uses bananas in the jam.  I must confess that although I helped my mom some when she made it, I never had the confidence to try it on my own.  The spring after she passed away I remembered that there would be no fresh jam that season; unless I made it myself of course.  So I dug around in her old recipe books and found the loose sheet of paper where she had written her jam recipe splattered with pink strawberry juice spots.

In honor of Mother’s day, and because it’s strawberry season, I am sharing this recipe with you.  I made a batch last week so hopefully my directions are clear and you can make this jam too.  It’s not nearly as hard as I had imagined.  It just takes some fore thought and prep. I recommend that you make it when you have time to spare and no little ones under foot. The cooking strawberries and sugar get very hot and can splash.  Once you get started with the cooking it’s not a good idea to have interruptions or take a phone call.  Stick with it and you will be rewarded with a delicious jam that’s not as hard to make as I thought.
I have to say that I am not in any way knowledgeable about making jams. Aside from some experimenting with it when I was first learning to cook many years ago, the only knowledge I have is from watching my mother make jams.  What I have written here is what I observed her doing and what I have done with success. You might like to consult other recipes to see if my directions are correct. I know that the altitude where you live plays a part in determining how long you process the jam after it is cooked and in the jars. Where I live our altitude is around 1000-1200 ft.  You can store the jam in the freezer or refrigerator if you want to skip the ‘canning’ process to make it shelf storage safe.
You will need to have some canning jars; I use the pint size and the ½ pint size for jam. If you are using the ½ pint (8oz) size you will need 8, if you use the pint size (16oz) you will need 4; or a mix of what ever you choose to equal that above. Wash your jars and the 2 piece lids. Make sure you use new lids not used ones. I use approximately 3 lbs (or almost 2 quarts) of strawberries, and 3-4 ripe bananas. I wash the strawberries well and remove the stem. Don’t be wasteful and take too much strawberry off with the stem, but you will want to remove any green or unripe areas on the berries.  Remove any soft spots or funny looking places.

Put your jars in a tall pot that has either a rack in the bottom or a wash cloth. The pot should be tall enough for the jars to fit inside allowing for water to cover them with about an inch to the top edge. My mom always put them in upside down, I’m not sure why, I put them in upside down too. Fill the pot with water up to about ½ full. I put the funnel in there too and put the lid on to hold the heat in. Turn on heat, you will want this to come to a slow boil and boil for at least 15 minutes. Put your lids in a sauce pan with other tools you will be using, a ladle and a funnel, and fill with water.  You will allow this to almost simmer, do not boil. You may need to add hot water if levels get too low.

At this point I put my berries in a food processor and give them into a fine chop, you can chop/process them into as small of pieces as you like. You could even puree them too.  You want 3 ½ cups of strawberries when you are finished. Mash or process your bananas to the consistency you would like. Pour your berries and bananas into at least a 6 quart pot, 8 quart is better. Add 3 tbs of lemon juice, and stir all together well.  Stir in one box of fruit pectin. After  stirring add 1 tsp of butter.  Measure 6 1/2 cups of sugar into a separate bowl and set aside. 

Turn heat onto medium high to high under fruit and start stirring, making sure you don’t let it burn on the bottom.  Use a heavy pot if you have one, which helps it to not burn. I like to use a wooden spatula that has a flat bottom for stirring this. You will notice that foam is forming on top of the fruit mixture. Bring fruit to a rolling boil stirring continuously. You will see bubbles popping, but when it starts the full rolling boil it will rise up in the pot. Notice the level in the pot above before it starts the full boil.

When you are sure of the full boil add the sugar all at once and stir it in keeping the heat on. When a full boil starts again time it for exactly one minute and turn off the heat. See how the level rises in the pot at the full rolling boil above.
Your jars should have been boiling gently during this cooking time; turn off the heat under them too and the sauce pan. You want your jars hot because if you allow them to cool before you finish the jam they may break when you pour the jam into them.

Quickly skim off the foam from the top of the fruit mixture using a large spoon.  This is good too, just put it in a separate container and put in fridge; you don’t want it in your jam jars but you don’t need to throw it out.

Take a jar from the pot using a jar lifter or tongs, pour off the water back into the pot, set jar close to your jam pot and put the funnel in it. Be careful! It’s a little tricky with tongs.

Ladle the hot fruit into the jar filling to about ¼ to 1/8 of an inch from the top. Remove the funnel and use a clean cloth to wipe top of rim clean, place lid seal and ring on it. Tighten the ring carefully. You need to tighten it enough to keep water out but not so tight that you cause the rubber seal to be broken. Move the jar aside and continue until all jam is gone.  If you don’t have enough jam to completely fill your last jar then put that jar in the fridge when it cools and don’t give it the water bath.

Place all full jars back into water pot and add hot water left in your sauce pot to it if needed. You want the jar lids to be covered by about an inch, add hot tap water if necessary. Put a lid on them and bring to a slow boil.  Process for the suggested time for your area, mom always processed for 8 minutes here.
When they have boiled for the allotted time remove them from the water bath and put them on a towel on your counter.  You will begin to hear a sucking popping sound as the temperature change pulls the lids down and the seal is made. Once jars are completely cool you can remove the rings if you like and store your jam with out them.  Your jars may need to be wiped down as they may have accumulated minerals or some strawberry residue on the out side. You now have a wonderful delicious home made jam fresh from your kitchen!  Thanks mom!

Strawberry Banana Jam
3 ½ cups of crushed, chopped or pureed strawberries, around 3 lbs or 2 quarts
1 ½ cups of mashed ripe bananas, about 3 medium to large
3 tbs of lemon juice,   1 tsp of butter (*see note),  1 box of fruit pectin
6 ½ cups of sugar, measured and set aside in a separate bowl
Mix strawberries, bananas, lemon juice, fruit pectin in a 6-8 qrt pot, add butter.  Bring to a full rolling boil and add sugar all at once.  Bring it to a full rolling boil again and boil for exactly one minute. Skim off foam, ladle into hot sterilized jars and process in a water bath.  Makes about 8  half pint jars.

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