This month's notes: March 2014: Spring is just around the corner. Strawberries are here in Florida, Texas and California, next in late March and April for much of the South, then in May for most of the country and June in cooler northern areas. See how easy it is to make strawberry jam or strawberry-rhubarb jam! See this page for hundreds of easy canning and freezing instructions/recipes, canning equipment guide! Also make your own ice cream - see How to make ice cream and ice cream making equipment and manuals. Then see each state's crop availability calendar for more specific dates of upcoming crops. Organic farms are identified in green! See our guide to local fruit and vegetable festivals!. Please tell the farms you found them here - and ask them to update their information!!
How to Make Fig-Strawberry Jam - Easily! With Step-by-step Photos, Recipe, Directions, Ingredients and Costs
How to Make Homemade Fig-Strawberry Jam - Easily!jello-type strawberry-fig jam, click here.
I've got some other pages for specific types of jam, too: See this page for Fig Jam, this page for Blueberry Jam directions and this page for how to make apricot, peach, plum or nectarine jam.
For more information about figs and strawberries, see Fig Picking Tips, Strawberry Picking Tips and Miscellaneous strawberry facts. Also, see this page for directions about how to can figs and this page for strawberry and other berry jams!
Ingredients and Equipment
Step 1 - Pick the figs and berries! (or buy them already picked)
It's fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better quality ones!
At right is a picture I took of Brown Turkey figs - they are plentiful in late August throughout the South. Other types of figs are fine, too. Strawberries are usually in season in May or June in most areas, so you may want to pick and freeze your strawberries (without sugar) and make this jam when the figs come in season. See this page on freezing strawberries.
I prefer to grow my own; which is really easy, especially for figs, strawberries can more challenging - but growing anything does take some space and time. That's why we have pick-your-own farms!
As mentioned above; you may use frozen berries (those without syrup or added sugar); which is especially useful if you want to make some jam in December to give away at Christmas!
Above and at left are strawberries that I picked at a pick-your-own farm. If you want to pick your own, here is a list and links to the pick your own farms.
How much fruit?
Jam can ONLY be made in rather small batches - about 6 cups of prepared fruit at a time - like the directions on the pectin say, DO NOT increase the recipes or the jam won't "set" (jell, thicken). (WHY? Alton Brown on the Food Channel says pectin can overcook easily and lose its thickening properties. It is easier and faster to get an even heat distribution in smaller batches. It takes about 4 cups of raw, unprepared berries and 4 cups of raw, whole, fresh figs per batch.
Step 2 - Wash the jars and lids
Now's a good time to get the jars ready, so you won't be rushed later. The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle, the water bath processing will sanitize them as well as the contents! If you don't have a dishwasher with a sanitize cycle, you can wash the containers in hot, soapy water and rinse, then sanitize the jars by boiling them 10 minutes, and keep the jars in hot water until they are used.
NOTE: If unsanitized jars are used, the product should be processed for 5 more minutes. However, since this additional processing can result in a poor set (runny jam), it’s better to sanitize the jars.
Put the lids into a pan of hot, but not quite boiling water (that's what the manufacturer's recommend) for 5 minutes, and use the magnetic "lid lifter wand" to pull them out. Leave the jars in the dishwasher on "heated dry" until you are ready to use them. Keeping them hot will prevent the jars from breaking when you fill them with the hot jam.
Step 3 -Wash and hull the strawberries!
I'm sure you can figure out how to wash the fruit in plain cold water.
With strawberries you must remove the hulls (green parts), and the slice the berries into halves (for small berries) quarters for large berries.
Step 4 - Peel and chop the figs
You need to cut off the stems and the bottom of the
fig, but you do not need to peel them - you CAN peel them if you
want to. I only peel the grody* looking ones (example photo below)
or those with thick skins.
(* knarly, gross, yucky)
At left, sample figs with unappealing peels (skins). If the skin looks fine, I chop it up, but if the skins are tough, think or unappealing like these...
I peel ----->
At left is a sample slice of a perfectly ripe but not over-ripe fig. It depends on the variety, but generally, they should be pink/yellowish and not brown inside....
Some recipes call for the figs to sit in boiling water for 5 to 15 minutes to "check or tenderize the skins. Since the skins have no flavor, I'd rather remove them if they are thick or tough... otherwise, just chop them up along with the rest of the fig. I do remove any stems and bruised spots.
You'll need 3 cups of the prepared (chopped) figs. You can chop them up more, if you like, but I find they soften and break up during cooking, and if I want smaller pieces, I just use a sharp-edged plastic potato masher (shown at right) to mush them while cooking)
You should now have 3 cups of sliced strawberries and 3 cups of chopped figs!
Step 5 - Measure out the sugar
If you are using low or no-sugar pectin, you should only need 2 and 1/4 cups of sugar. With regular pectin, about 4 cups of sugar. Mix the dry pectin (1 and a half packets, or 10 tablespoons) with about 1/4 cup of sugar and Keep this separate from the rest of the sugar. If you are not using sugar, you'll just have to stir more vigorously to prevent the pectin from clumping. This helps to keep the pectin from clumping up and allows it to mix better!
If you would rather try to make jam with no added sugar, just substitute 1 cup of white grape or peach juice for the sugar. You could also use 1 cup Splenda (or about 1/3 that if you use Stevia, which is my preference) instead of the sugar!
Step 6 - Mix the berries and figs with the pectin and cook to a full boil
Combine the berries and figs in a large pot. Stir the lemon juice and pectin into the berry/fig mixture. Put the pot on the stove over medium to high heat (stir often enough to prevent burning). It should take about 5 to 10 minutes to get it to a full boil (the kind that cannot be stirred away).
Why use pectin? You may run into grandmotherly types who sniff "I never used pectin!" at you. Well, sure, and their generation took a horse and buggy to work, died of smallpox and ate canned meat and green beans that tastes like wet newspapers. Old fashioned ways are not always better nor healthier. Pectin, which occurs naturally in fruit, is what makes the jam "set" or thicken. The pectin you buy is just natural apple pectin, more concentrated. Using pectin dramatically reduces the cooking time, which helps to preserve the vitamins and flavor of the fruit, and uses much less added sugar. But, hey, if you want to stand there and stir for hours, cooking the flavor away, who am I to stop you! :) Having said that, there are some fruits that have naturally high amounts of pectin (see this page for a list) and they simply don't need much or even any padded pectin.
Notes about pectin: I usually add about 20% more pectin (just open another pack and add a little) or else the jam is runnier than I like. With a little practice, you'll find out exactly how much pectin to get the thickness you like.
Is your jam too runny? Pectin enables you to turn out perfectly set jam
every time. Made from natural apples, there are also natural no-sugar
pectins that allow you to reduce the sugar you add by half or even eliminate
Get them all here at the best prices on the internet!
Step 7 - Get the lids warming in hot (but not boiling) water
If you haven't done so already, put the lids into a pan of hot water (barely simmering) for at least several minutes; to soften up the gummed surface and clean the lids.
Need lids, rings and replacement jars?
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Step 8 - Add the remaining sugar and bring to a boil
When the berry-pectin mix has reached a full boil (photo at left), add the rest of the sugar (about 2 cups of sugar per 6 cup batch of berries - OR the 1 cup of fruit juice OR the 1 cup Splenda (or about 1/3 that if you use Stevia, which is my preference)) and then
Step 9 - return to a full, hard boil for 1 minute
... bring it back to a boil and boil hard for 1 minute.
Remove from the heat.
Step 10 - Skim any excessive foam
Foam... What is it? Just jam with a lot of air from the boiling. But it tastes more like, well, foam, that jam, so most people remove it. It is harmless, though. Some people add 1 teaspoon of butter or margarine to the mix in step 6 to reduce foaming, but food experts debate whether that may contribute to earlier spoilage, so I usually omit it and skim.
But save the skimmed foam! You can recover jam from it to use fresh! See this page for directions!
Step 11 - Testing for "jell" (thickness)
I keep a metal tablespoon sitting in a glass of ice water, then take a half spoonful of the mix and let it cool to room temperature on the spoon. If it thickens up to the consistency I like, then I know the jam is ready. If not, I mix in a little more pectin (about 1/4 to 1/2 of another package) and bring it to a boil again for 1 minute.
Notes about "set" (thickening or jell): It takes 3 ingredients for jams and jellies to set: pectin, sugar and acidity. The amount of pectin that is naturally occurring in the fruit varies from one type of fruit to another and by ripeness (counter intuitively, unripe contains more pectin). See this page for more about pectin in fruit. It takes the right balance, and sufficient amounts of each of pectin, sugar and acidity to result in a firm jam or jelly. Lastly, it takes a brief period (1 minute) of a hard boil, to provide enough heat to bring the three together. Generally speaking, if your jam doesn't firm up, you were short in pectin, sugar or acidity or didn't get a hard boil. That's ok - you can "remake' the jam; see this page!
Step 12 - Optional: Let stand for 5 minutes and stir completely.
Why? Otherwise, the fruit will often float to the top of the jar. This isn't a particular problem; you can always stir the jars later when you open them; but some people get fussy about everything being "just so", so I've included this step! Skipping this step won't affect the quality of the jam at all. I usually don't bother.
You’ll also notice that the less sugar you use, the more the fruit will float (chemists will tell you it is due to the decreased density of the solution!)
Step 13 - Fill the jars and put the lid and rings on
Fill them to within ¼-inch of the top, wipe any spilled jam off the top, seat the lid and tighten the ring around them. Then put them into the boiling water canner!
This is where the jar tongs come in really handy!
Step 12 - Process the jars in the boiling water bath
Keep the jars covered with at least 2 inches of water. Keep the water boiling. In general, boil them for 10 minutes, which is what SureJell (the makers of the pectin) recommend. I say "in general" because you have to process (boil) them longer at higher altitudes than sea level, or if you use larger jars, or if you did not sanitize the jars and lids right before using them. The directions inside every box of pectin will tell you exactly. The directions on the pectin tend to be pretty conservative. Clemson University says you only need to process them for 5 minutes. I usually hedge my bets and start pulling them out after 5 minutes, and the last jars were probably in for 10. I rarely have a jar spoil, so it must work. But you don't want to process them too long, or the jam will turn dark and get runny. See the chart below for altitude adjustment to processing times, if you are not in the sea level to 1,000ft above sea level range.
Note: Some people don't even boil the jars; they just ladle it hot into hot jars, put the lids and rings on and invert them, but putting the jars in the boiling water bath REALLY helps to reduce spoilage! To me, it makes little sense to put all the working into making the jam and then not to process the jars to be sure they don't spoil!
Recommended process time for jams in a boiling water canner.
|Process Time at Altitudes of|
|Style of Pack||Jar Size||0 - 1,000 ft||1,001 - 6,000 ft||Above 6,000 ft|
Step 13 - Remove and cool the jars - Done!
Lift the jars out of the water with your jar lifter tongs and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight) You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok.
Once cooled, they're ready to store. I find they last up to 12 months. But after about 6 to 8 months, they get darker in color and start to get runny. They still are safe to eat, but the flavor and texture aren't as good. So eat them in the first 6 months after you prepare them! Another trick is to keep the uncooked berries or other fruit in the freezer and make and can the jam as needed, so it's always fresh.
- Comments from a visitor on July 08, 2011: "I used your recipe last year
for strawberry pie filling. I am down to the last two jars and just canned
some fresh filling. I noticed that the color of last years is more brown
than red. Is it still good? I LOVE your website and refer to it constantly!
Answer: Yes, over time, the color usually darkens and the jam gets a bit more runny, but if it is still sealed and no other signs of spoilage are present, it's safe to eat!
Comments, Tips and Feedback:
- Comments from a visitor on July 07, 2011: "Thanks so much for the fantastic fig-strawberry jam recipe. I tried it exactly as given here and it is delicious, a good consistency, and it looks beautiful. Also, thanks for the hint to let the cooked mixture sit for 5 minutes so the fruit didn't rise to the top, it worked! I chose to use the 2 1/4 cups of sugar just because sugar is a natural preservative, and the jam is just right. Oh, and, I used frozen strawberries. I had tried somebody else's fig-strawberry jello jam and it was way too sweet. Thanks for a great recipe with lots of good hints. I highly recommend it."
- Comments from a visitor on June 23, 2011: "I just wanted to thank you for your fig recipes and process pages. We have a good sized fig tree out our kitchen window and each year, since the first year of our marriage 12 years ago, I make fig and strawberry fig preserves for my husband. I have tried several recipes for regular fig jam and this one is by far, hands down, my new go to favorite recipes. Easy and Delicious with just right consistency. Also, I've always used the strawberry jello method for strawberry fig jam and usually do not eat it because it is too syrupy sweet for me. This year I made your recipe, I love your quote, there is no jello in preserves, and love, love it. My husband is on a mission trip and is returning tomorrow. I am so excited to share these jams with him. I should get extra bonus points. Thank you again. Oh, and I just made deck jam: That means I only used the figs I could reach from the deck or a chair. The tree is still 3/4 full and most are not even ripe yet. I see more canning in my future.
From left to right:
You can get all of the tools in a kit here:
Home Canning Kits
This is the same type of standard canner that my grandmother used to make everything from applesauce to jams and jellies to tomato and spaghetti sauce. This complete kit includes everything you need and lasts for years: the canner, jar rack, jar grabber tongs, lid lifting wand, a plastic funnel, labels, bubble freer, and the bible of canning, the Ball Blue Book. It's much cheaper than buying the items separately. You'll never need anything else except jars & lids (and the jars are reusable)! There is also s simple kit with just the canner and rack, and a pressure canner, if your want to do vegetables (other than tomatoes). To see more canners, of different styles, makes and prices, click here!
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Canning & Preserving for Dummies
The Ball Blue Book of Preserving
This is THE book on canning! My grandmother used this book when I was a child. It tells you in simple instructions how to can almost anything; complete with recipes for jam, jellies, pickles, sauces, canning vegetables, meats, etc. If it can be canned, this book likely tells you how! Click on the link below for more information and / or to buy (no obligation to buy)
Summary - Typical Cost of Making Homemade Jam - makes 8 jars, 8 oz each**
|Item||Quantity||Cost in 2006||Source||Subtotal|
|Berries (strawberries)||1 gallon||$8.00/gallon||Pick your own||$8.00|
|Canning jars (8 oz size), includes lids and rings||18 jars||$7.00/dozen||Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores||$10.00|
|Sugar||4 cups||$2.00||Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores||$2.00|
|Pectin (low sugar, dry)||1 and a third boxes *||$2.00 per box||Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores||$2.70|
or about $1.25 per jar
|* pectin use varies - blackberry
jam needs very little, raspberry a little more, strawberry the most.
** - This assumes you already have the pots, pans, ladles, and reusable equipment. Note that you can reuse the jars and reduce the cost further; just buy new lids (the rings are reusable, but the flat lids are not)!
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