How to make your own strawberry jam

Summer is the perfect time to go out and pick some fresh fruit. If you're a culinary academy student, why not compliment some of your baked goods with jam that you've made yourself. Store-bought brands might feature artificial flavors and preservatives, so take advantage of the authentic natural flavors the summer season provides. Here's how you can make delicious jam at home:

Prepare the fruit
This will be a recipe for strawberry jam, but keep in mind this process will work for many fruits.

First, gently clean the strawberries with a damp paper towel. Hull the strawberries using a sharp knife. Slice the strawberries into small pieces and then mash them. If you are making preserves, you may use larger chunks of fruit.

Add the sugar
The amount of sugar used will depend on how sweet you want your final product to be. The traditional recipe offered by the old farmer's almanac suggests 3/4 cups of sugar for every cup of fruit. You probably want at least this much, as sugar will not only factor into flavor but will help thicken and preserve the final product.

The BBC's Good Food blog recommends leaving the fruit and sugar mixture uncovered at room temperature for twelve hours to give the sugar a chance to dissolve.

Additional ingredients
You should include a little lemon juice. Balance the flavors by adding about 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice for every cup of sugar.

You may also want to add pectin. Pectin is a naturally occurring fiber that holds up the cell walls of produce. The Kitchn, an online resource for home cooks, advices using store-bought pectin for making jams out of fruits that don't contain much pectin on their own – like strawberries. The more pectin, the thicker the jam. You can substitute half a cup of sugar for half a cup of pectin.

Cook the mixture
Pour the finished mixture into a thick sauce pan. Start on a low heat until sugar has fully dissolved. Once you can't see or feel any more grains, turn up the heat until the mixture starts to boil. You should be stirring frequently. Boiling time will differ fruit to fruit, but you usually want to boil strawberries for about 10 minutes. 

Test the density has a neat trick to help you check to see if your jam is ready. Before you start cooking the mixture, place a couple of plates in the freezer.

When you think the jam is ready, place a small spoonful on one of the cold plates. Let the jam cool for a moment and then run your finger through it. If the streak stays parted, your jam is plenty thick. If it instantly runs to fill in the finger gap, you might want to boil it for a couple of additional minutes.

Once the jam has reached the thickness you desire, you can begin scooping it into warm jars. Then it is ready to enjoy for the rest of the season. 

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