The empty jars and shelves await new friends!
Today I made 2 batches of strawberry jam using two different “recipes” but both used Pectin. I did a bunch of research on line about pectin and it is a good thing, not a bad thing to use! Wiki goes into the details if anyone is interested http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pectin but pectin is basically the polysaccharides, or cell structure of various plants (mostly fruits) that is processed into a powder, which helps with the congealing process. (I think I have a bunch of congealing going on in my aged body but it sounds so much better when talking about jam and not asses!) I found a chart of fruits and their natural, relative, pectin levels. Strawberries are in the group with the smallest percent of natural pectin. And guess what. The riper the fruit, the smaller the percentage of pectin. This makes perfect sense since the cell walls of the fruit start to deteriorate as the fruit ripens and gets softer and softer until it is mush! Acidity is also a factor in this mix but that comes in on the part of the preservation of the item. The recipes I used yesterday included lemon and I used it in one of the batches today as well. It is basically a balancing act!
So, my really ripe strawberries could use some help in the congealing process. What I cooked up yesterday is just fine and dandy but was the old fashioned version where the fruit was cooked with the sugar until the sugar became thick enough to support the whole. (Think candy and candy thermometers!) Unfortunately, the boiling, boiling, boiling takes so long that the fruit has perhaps lost some nutritional value. Bummer, right?!!?! Hopefully the jam is still wonderful and the taste test will be the determining factor. But I’m so glad to have done some research and experimented with the 2 batches today.
The best thing I did today (after working out in the fields with Dave all morning -planted more onions and weeded the blueberries – to beat the rain that arrived around noon) was to get a weight for a measurement of smashed berries. It turns out that 3 pounds berries, equals 6 cups of smashed berries. Put that in your record books since it is very annoying to read recipes that say use ‘4 pints of berries’ or use ‘4 cups smashed’. I find weighing to be more universal and I will try to keep to the scale for my recipes. So the first batch used 3 pounds of hulled fruit and the second batched used 3.5 pounds. Who wants to bother with the measurement of pre-smashed versus post smashed! Ugh! The pectin in both was 1.5 pkgs of Sure-Gel but the sugar was greater in the larger batch and I think it had an impact in the volume.
Here is a pic of the days of processing: 20 half pints of jam! 8 in regular half pints (the first batch) and 12 in wide mouth ones (the second)! Gorgeous color even tho the wide mouth do not show it as easily in the pic.