Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Homemade Strawberry Jam with 3 ingredients

I think I've done this with you before. Oh yes, I have.

Right here.

I taught you all about how jam is a type of spreadable fruit gel that only needs three magical ingredients:

1. Fruit
       2. Sugar
                  3.  Acid

I believe I also warned you about skimping on the sugar. The added sugar not only serves to increase jam's shelf life in your ice box, but it is crucial to help the pectin molecules rearrange themselves into a gel structure. It must be present at a very specific concentration in order to produce the right consistency.

These strawberries have worked hard. They sat around in a bush for months fighting off excessive rain and taking in the sun. They're giving up all of their natural pectin just for you - the pectin that they worked so hard to build all Spring. So, let the hard work pay off and use the recommended quantity of sugar so that the pectin can set up nice and firm. This will make the strawberries feel proud.

To make jam, pectin must first be extracted from the fruit’s cell walls. So, we'll start by cutting the fruit into small pieces and heating it gently in a saucepot. Pectin molecules gradually dissolve into water that is released from the fruit during heating.

I picked these strawberries myself! They're small, they're juicy and they're insanely red. I only needed to cut them into quarters but if you have massive berries, cut them into eighths.

Then you add a bunch of sugar to re-build the pectin structure to bind water between pectin molecules in order to bring them closer to one another. The mixture is then brought to a boil to evaporate some of the moisture and concentrate pectin.

An acid solution is then added, such as lemon juice, to neutralize or remove the negative electrical charges of pectin molecules so that they can finally unite at specific zones and create a gel. That's because when pectin molecules are initially extracted from fruit cell walls, they take on a negative charge which causes them to repel one another or push each other away, making it impossible for them to come close enough to form a gel. By adding acid, we allow them to get close and comfortable with each other. I guess you could say that lemon juice makes pectin want to love itself....? Sure.

After further cooking, stirring and standing over the pot....you have jam!! Pour it into a sterilized jar, seal it tight and refrigerate for weeks.

I promise this will make you so happy.

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