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a productive Friday night

Strawberry jam is practically a religion in my family. Both sets of my grandparents used to make their own varieties, picking the fruit fresh from their gardens. My Grandma Hellewell makes a delicious kind she calls "Heavenly Hash"; strawberry jam mixed with raspberries and blackberries, or whatever kind of berries you happen to have growing in your backyard.

As a child I knew no other way to have waffles than smothered in homemade strawberry jam and topped with a big dollop of whipped cream. I still prefer them this way. But until last year I had never made the jam myself. I always counted on grabbing a few jars out of the freezer when I was home visiting from college, or my grandmother would save a jar of Heavenly Hash so I could smuggle it in my luggage on trips back to New York.

Forget about salsa gardens, or cutting flower gardens.. someday I want a jam garden. But for now, I'll just buy strawberries at the store like everybody else (what I wouldn't give for a nice U Pick strawberry farm nearby). So when you've used up your last jar of jam and strawberries go on sale? Well then it's time to buy a few flats and make some jam.

You've got to chop your berries up, that's the first step. So we borrowed my parents old food grinder which does a terrific job of getting the berries to the perfect consistency, finer than a chop, but not too fine.. you still want little pieces of fruit. The grinder was my grandfather's. I have memories of him using it to chop onions Thanksgiving morning as he made his famous stuffing with LOTS of onions.

When my grandfather passed away the grinder ended up with his only daughter, my mom. I think I might have to arm wrestle my two sisters for it someday. The patent stamp on the back says 1899... 110 years old and it still works beautifully.

We prefer MCP pectin, according to my mom. You just follow the directions right on the package. We like to heat the jam just a touch while you're trying to dissolve the sugar, stirring constantly (JR is an excellent stirrer). I think a little chart helps too, if you're making more than one batch at a time. Six batches later, we have a nice stash for the winter. And plenty of extras to share with friends as well. Looks like we can start making waffles again.

I almost forgot to mention that at our wedding, I had the brilliant idea to give homemade strawberry jam as favors to all 180 of our guests. JR and my dad made batch after batch after batch of jam for about 3 days straight so each guest could take a jar home. (Did I say thank you, Dad? I appreciate it now a bit more, after having made a few batches!)

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Reader Comments (41)

you are amazing - and inspiring

05.20.2009 | Unregistered CommenterLecia

what gorgeous photographs! I made strawberry jam for the first time recently, and it was completely delicious, but I think next time I will try chopping the berry pieces up smaller-- I had a lot of big chunks in the jam.

05.21.2009 | Unregistered Commentersk

That looks so delicious. I may have to steal my grandmother's jam recipe and include your method of meat grinding the strawberries. I just keep buying the Dickson's or whatever brand that they sell at Cracker Barrel and I am tired of paying so much for it. The pictures are lovely! : )

05.21.2009 | Unregistered CommenterRhiannonM

Yummy!! I love homemade strawberry jam. That's a great idea for wedding favors!

05.21.2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Otis

my mom uses a grinder like that too. i love your photos. and my mouth is watering for jam.

05.21.2009 | Unregistered Commenterjill

Delicious! Don't hesitate to sneak some into your suitcase for your trip to NY next week! :)

05.21.2009 | Unregistered Commenterjoelle

the jars of jam are so pretty... but, why the freezer?

05.21.2009 | Unregistered CommenterAdrienne

Yummm. Now I want strawberry jam. :) I've never tried to make it myself, but perhaps I will one of these days!

05.21.2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

this is such an inspiring post! i can't imagine not making my own jam now.
lovely photos, too! thank you, thank you for the marvelous idea.

05.21.2009 | Unregistered Commentersummer

i love jam from home. we make a huge batch with the plums from the backyard tree and it last all year. this year i am planning on using apricots from my brother's tree from his new home.

was going to suggest you look into cal poly pomona's farm store.

they might be within driving distance for a special strawberry picking day. they have a huge field where you can pick some of the prettiest strawberries i have ever seen.

05.21.2009 | Unregistered Commentermamie

Homemade strawberry jam instantly makes me think of my mother and grandmother. After having homemade, it is impossible to ever think of store bought in the same way again! That grinder is amazing... wow.

tap. tap. tap. tap.

Thats the sound of me tapping my foot as I stand waiting next to my mailbox for jam to arrive.

05.21.2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

i'm in awe. great job!

05.21.2009 | Unregistered Commenterleni


I've always wanted to try this, but it's the whole jar thing that confuses me. Can you use any old jars? It looks like you haven't bought new jars but re-used old ones, which is wonderful - so there really is nothing special about the "new" jars?

05.21.2009 | Unregistered CommenterNina

Oh, the grinder! It might just be my imagination, but I always think I can still smell a faint essence of onions on it. I'll have to start working out for that arm wrestle... Maybe we'll all just have to mail it back and forth! Or I can come for visits every now and then.

05.21.2009 | Unregistered CommenterApes

Hi! This sweet post is a perfect example of why I adore you blog so very much--the beautiful family history, photos, storytelling....

When I was a kid I have some great memories of going blackberry picking with my family and making jams. I usued to be fascinated with the whole process, especially the wax and jars. xx

05.21.2009 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl

Hi, hey if you're in So Cal (OC) Tanaka Farms in Irvine is a u-pick'm strawberry farm (and pumpkin farm in the Fall). We get CSA boxes of their organic produce through Long Beach Food Co-Op group on Yahoo. I've been getting it for over a year and love the group and produce. If you are interested, I recommend looking into it. Your jam looks great and kudos to you for making it. I'm still intimidated, but will eventually tackle canning. Email me if you'd like more info on the Long Beach Food Co-op.

05.21.2009 | Unregistered CommenterStacey S.

Wonderful! What lovely photos and memories. My fiance comes from a farming family and I am wanting to do jam favors too, perhaps in little jars. It seems like such a special treat!

05.21.2009 | Unregistered Commentercallen

What a delicious family tradition! Yummo!

05.21.2009 | Unregistered Commenterkate

My heart crumpled a little when I read the words "jam garden." So lovely.

I came late to canning, no family history of it. Now I invent recipes as I go -- last batch was apricot with elderflower liqueur. It's so much easier than its reputation would have people believe.

05.21.2009 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

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