Why, you ask, are you making strawberry jam in April, when strawberry plants haven't even thought about poking through the ground? Well, I had a bunch of frozen strawbs, and I changed up my jam recipe, so I'm giving it a shot. Also, whenever you want to sell your jam publicly, you must have it approved by the Maine Department of Agriculture. You create your recipe, using only specific weights and temperatures. Then you make the recipe in a sterile environment and send a sample of it to Al Bushway, a man who I expect to be hanging out, holding a giant spoon in each hand, waiting for piles of people's jams and jellies to arrive at his doorstep so he can try them out. Actually, when I proposed to the department that this was my vision, DOCTOR Bushway's assistant explained that he actually does often taste the jam, but that really has nothing to do with whether or not it is deemed "approvable" by the state of Maine. He really just needs to know that the Brix level (sugar) evens up with other ingredients so as to help the jam remain fresh enough for long enough so I don't poison anyone. So far so good in that department.. Every time I change a recipe, or add a new jam recipe, I have to send it to Dr. Bushway for approval. I feel quite good about the process actually. It means someone is keeping track of food safety.
So, this morning I coaxed Joe into taking the girls to Tractor Supply, where I know he loves to browse. This allowed me adequate time to clean up and make the jam free and clear of any tantrums or other unforseen jam-stopping moments. Also, hot jam is wicked dangerous-- I've been using "wicked" so much more lately! The stuff is super-hot and sticks to your skin like hot glue. You don't want the kids around when jam is boiling.
Here's a shot of what strawberries and pectin look like before adding massive amounts of sugar to make jam. Isn't that color incredible? There really should be a crayon color called "Strawberry Jam."
Let's just say, there is a lot of sugar in jam. In this case, there is an equal amount of sugar and strawberries. If you want to feel better about the amount of sugar in your jam, just imagine that this container is really small. (But it's not.)
Once you add this absurdity to your fruit, a process occurs which can not truly be explained. It is magic. It is color-changing, bubble-forming, incredible magic. It is jam. Yum.
And to make the process extra safe, a batch of jam has to be boiled for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. This seals the deal, literally.
Then you pull out the jars, with what I call "The Grabber." The next part is extremely satisfying. It also has a name I so ingeniously created: "The Waiting." Specifically, we're waiting for that perfect "pop" you hear when the jar has created enough pressure to suck the cover of the jar down, pulling the cover-button inward. I love this sound. I wish I could use this sound as a ring-tone. Can I do that? Probably someone knows how.
And finally, the last step is to let in Woodpile, our cat. One time I was visiting my in-laws in Virginia, when Joe's Mom's pet bird flew across the living room and into the kitchen, landing right on the edge of a pot of boiling soup. That bird did not live long, and I'm not sure how many of us actually ate the soup. This is the reason animals should really not be in the kitchen when I'm cooking stuff for other people to eat. It's just not safe. Plus, I get a kick out of watching the poor kitty trying to let me know just how badly he wants in.