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Small-batch strawberry jamWhen you don’t have much fruit – or don’t have much time – make a small batch, it goes together easily. The berries stand with the sugar while you get the jars ready, and then the jam is finished, and canned, within 60 minutes. Makes 3 8-oz jars plus a bit for tomorrow’s breakfast.

Small-batch Strawberry Jam

makes about 3 8-oz jars

  • 1 quart strawberries — quartered and packed (should be about 4 cups)
  • 3 c sugar
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp unsalted butter (optional, but helps reduce foaming a lot)

Start with the berries: rinse them well, hull them, and cut them into quarters, and put them in a large heavy-bottomed pot. (I used my favorite 4 qt pot, which was perfect for the task.) Add the sugar and lemon juice, then stir well, cover with a clean tea towel, and let stand 1 to 2 hours to bring the juice out of the berries. (You can actually let them stand, covered, in the refrigerator overnight, if you need to.)

Now prep the jars: one more than you’ll think you need. Put 4 8-oz jars in a pot, cover them with water, and bring the pot to a boil. Boil the jars for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the jars stand. Put the bands nearby, and the lids in a heat-proof bowl. Pour some boiling water over the lids – cover them – and let the lids stand. Put a saucer or small plate in your refrigerator to chill (this will be for testing doneness.) Have an extra small jar, or custard cup, clean and ready for any excess.

When you’re ready for the cooking – you’ll need 45 – 60 minutes, no more – add a tiny pat of butter and bring to a boil. Now you’ll have some choices to make: do you prefer your jam smooth like a fruit butter, or lumpy like traditional preserves? For smooth jam: When the fruit is cooked all soft and tender, remove the pot from the heat, and whiz with an immersion blender, to make a smooth puree. For traditional jam: don’t bother with this step.

Continue boiling the jam, stirring occasionally. Now you’ll make your choice about the set of the jam: do you prefer a loose set, a bit runny, or a very stiff one, that won’t fall off the spoon? A loose set jam will barely pass a wrinkle test, while a stiff set is cooked a bit more.

strawberry jam in jarsRemove from heat. Ladle jam into prepared jars, wipe rims, and apply lids and bands. Anything that won’t fit in your four jars can go into the clean custard cup – chill it in the fridge, this is perfect with yogurt or on toast for breakfast!

Wipe the jar rims, apply lids and bands, then process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Cool jars, label, and store in a dark cool place.