« n.y.c. | Main | tomorrow on Martha »

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!)

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (41)

so lovely. looks delicious.

05.21.2009 | Unregistered Commenterjoanna goddard

My mom and grandma always did tons of canning and jam making every summer. A few years ago, after the onset of Alzheimers in my grandma, I helped care for her and my grandpa one weekend a month. I will always remember one summer weekend, I took her outside to pick blackberries and then we made jam together. She wasn't altogether 'there', but I know the process was familiar and comforting to her. It's a good memory I have of her, and I now have the little square plastic containers she used to store her jam in the freezer. I think it's time for a batch or two :o)

I love that you gave jars of jam as favors at your wedding!

05.21.2009 | Unregistered Commentermarne

Oh, yummers! I've been working on the same thing today and we're already drooling over the waffles we're going to have tomorrow night! When we were little kids Grandma used to always make waffles with jam and cream for Christmas Eve, and I can remember sitting at the kitchen table with Shaun while we gobbled them up. Good food and good memories... what a combination!

05.21.2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Stephens

oh i need to learn to make strawberry jam - my son and i go through it so quickly, it's almost bought as often as milk and bread! that is one fab bit of machinery and so-sweet (literally) memories you must have...

05.22.2009 | Unregistered Commenterbelinda

Yummy. The last part reminded me, that my grandma made 200 jars of her secret BBQ sauce as a gift for my wedding guests. I may never thank her enough! THose really are the best gifts!

05.22.2009 | Unregistered CommenterChelsea

so inspiring! I love a good jam. We gave out blueberry jams at our wedding, but they weren't homemade by us. I wish I came from a jam-making family. What a sweet tradition!

05.22.2009 | Unregistered Commenterjen jafarzadeh

We love strawberry jam. Our house backs up to a lemon orchard and strawberry field. Once a year at the end of the season they sell hulled strawberries for $1 a pound to the public. Apparently they do a ton of them for Smuckers or something. I always go with a huge bucket, make jam and keep a big ziplock in the freezer for smoothies.

05.22.2009 | Unregistered CommenterBecky

Your jam looks pretty and delicious! Strawberry jam is the first thing I taught myself how to make last summer...it came out great! And now, after seeing this grinder, I'm kicking myself for not buying the one I saw at the thrift store the other day for 5 bucks!

05.22.2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

I love the pictures and have been picking strawberries locally lately. I am so inspired by this story that I went out and picked a gallon and a half of strawberries yesterday and am currently making my own strawberry jelly/preserves (minus the pectin). I'll post pics on my site and hope they come out as well as yours.

05.24.2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Nothing like the sound of 'popping' lids as you lay in bed after a long day of 'batching'
I find the jam tastes even better when you picked the berries yourself.
Mmmm ...Raspberry is my absolute favorite. Not jelly it has to be jam.

Mmmmm, freezer jam... I also used to steal it from home. I love how you have it in the cute "Homade Chili Sauce" jars - my mom does that too!

05.24.2009 | Unregistered CommenterJess

oh brooke, you put me and my half baked domesticity to shame!! i always find your blog an inspiration; so i have awarded you (along with six other inspiring blogs) the 'awe-summm' award. please drop by my blog, 'femme de montmartre' and join in the fun. you always put your own spin on things and i'd love to see the unique way you accept this award and who you find inspiring in blogland.
cheers, shelley t from melbourne, australia.

05.25.2009 | Unregistered Commentershelley t

What a lovely post... with that gorgeous heirloom of a grinder stealing the show! Strawberry season is still a few weeks away in upstate NY. Your pictures got me so excited. We live way out in the country with not much around... with the exception of lots of U-pick berry farms!!

05.26.2009 | Unregistered Commentermaya*made

LOVE homemade strawberry jam! I can't remember a summer when my family didn't go strawberry picking. And we gave homemade jam as wedding favors too - they were a big hit!

05.27.2009 | Unregistered CommenterChelsea

gorgeous. thank you for sharing the photos and inspiration! it seems like all the world is aflutter with jamming this week--me, too! i just have to get my hands on some berries...

05.27.2009 | Unregistered Commenterlillie

Good job! I love making jam, but I love those pics you took even more with the old tools. What a neat idea. :)

05.29.2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachelle

yum. we're getting ready to go strawberry picking; it's been a while since I've made jam, but I told the kids we would make some. should be fun.

06.2.2009 | Unregistered CommenterAimee

Gorgeous photos! Your blog is so inspiring and beautiful :)

06.8.2009 | Unregistered CommenterTracy

I think you're in San Diego...if so, there are a couple of U-Pick strawberry farms fairly close. One in Carlsbad (Carlsbad Strawberry Farm - www.carlsbadstrawberrycompany.com) and one in Lakeside (Victoria's Garden - www.victoriasgardens.us).

06.9.2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnna N.

O, I was so excited to read this post. I have been longing to try my hand at canning and pickling and jamming. I thought I'd start with strawberry jam. This seems like a confirmation of my plans.
Would you share your recipe or is it a family secret?
By the way, I really enjoy your blog. Your daughter's 3rd birthday party was one of the sweetest parties I've seen. I am going to try those frosting dots. And I love that you are not above matching drinks to decor. I loved that!
Thanks for sharing your creativity and inspiring me.

06.12.2009 | Unregistered Commentergreta

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>