How to Make Strawberry Jam: Canning With Your Kids
Want to show them how their yummy toast topping arrives at the table, step by step?
Discover the traditional process of canning strawberry jam with your kids! It’s easy, fun and very rewarding.
In this article I’ll show you how to make strawberry jam from fresh fruit and then preserve it by canning.
It’s a feel-good, do-it-yourself project that you can do with your whole family, in your own kitchen and enjoy the fruits of your labor for the rest of the year.
Why Preserve Jam?
If you think of canning as an old-fashioned pursuit best enjoyed by our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, think again. Canning and preserving fruits and vegetables is no longer considered old-fashioned. Walk into any bookstore or library these days, and you’re sure to find several modern cookbooks on the practice of preserving.
Like many homesteading activities that went out of style for a generation or two, canning is back in full force. It’s a traditional pursuit that is fun for the whole family. Plus, it’s a great lesson for your kids.
When a family cooks together, you form a special kind of bond. And it’s really fun to prepare and preserve something that you would normally buy in the grocery store. Your kids will learn how jam is made. They’ll gain pride and confidence, and you’ll all have yummy jam you can eat year-round!
Since strawberry season is just wrapping up, it’s the perfect time for one last outing to the strawberry fields to pick your own or go to the grocery store to stock up on the fruit while it’s at its cheapest and tastiest. Preserving strawberries now means you can enjoy their health benefits and full flavor all year long.
Many people think canning is a complicated process and that you need to have industrial-sized quantities of fresh fruit in order to do it. Canning is actually incredibly simple and can be done in small batches with supplies that you likely already have in your kitchen.
The ingredients in this article will allow you and your kids to make four half-pint jars of classic strawberry jam.
It’s always important to keep basic kitchen safety in mind when you’re canning your own jam. Some steps will need to be performed by an adult (especially those involving moving jars into and out of boiling water), while others are perfect for kids.
Preserving food is a wonderful activity that brings your family together in the kitchen to talk, laugh and share stories, as you make something together. Let’s get started!
#1: Warm Up the Canning Pot
This initial step should be done by an adult, because the pot will be heavy and the water will be hot.
Put the rack in the bottom of the canning pot. Its job is to separate the bottom of the glass jars from the bottom of the pan so that the jars don’t break during processing.
Fill the canning pot with water and put it on the stove to boil.
Submerge clean jars into the water as it’s heating up and make sure they boil in the water for at least 10 minutes, while you continue on to the next step.
#2: Set Up a Resting Space for Your Jars
You’ll need an area where you can let your jars “rest,” undisturbed, for at least 12 hours, after they’re processed. You can set them on a wooden cutting board or a folded towel in a corner of the kitchen counter.
Set down another towel near the stove where you can put the hot jars while you fill them.
The towel near the stove also works for clean-up purposes. It’ll catch the strawberry jam that drips!
#3: Prepare the Fruit
Fruit preparation is the most time-consuming part of canning. However, it’s also where kids of all ages can pitch in.
Pour the strawberries into a sieve or colander, and rinse them under cold water. Then hull the strawberries, which means taking out the leafy stems.
Older kids can dice the strawberries under adult supervision.
When you finish dicing, you want to have about 9 cups [2250ml] of strawberries.
#4: Cook your Preserves
Pour the strawberries and 1½ c [355ml] sugar into your 6- to 8-quart [7 L] pot. This is something else kids can do to contribute.
Now bring to a simmer. It’s important to constantly stir the strawberries so that they don’t burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 5 minutes.
Pour the cooked strawberries into a colander or sieve, and set over a large bowl to drain. Make sure you stir the sieve to get out all the juice.
Take the juice from the large bowl, and pour it back into the pot. Bring to a boil. Boil for about 20 minutes, or until the juice is reduced to 1½ cups [350 ml].
Put the strawberries back into the pot, and add 3T [45 ml] lemon juice and the zest from 1 lemon. Bring to a simmer. The lemon juice brings out the flavor of the strawberries, but it has another important job to do, too: It ensures that the strawberry jam is sufficiently acidic to be safe to can.
Simmer this mixture for 15 minutes, skimming off the foam from the top. Then remove from the heat. Stir well.
#5: Fill Your Jars
The first two steps in this part of the process deal with boiling water, so an adult must perform them. This is a good time for kids to come up with jam names or draw a picture to use for your logo.
Put the jar lids into the small bowl and use the ladle to cover them with boiling water from the big pot (from step #1).
Use your jar lifter or tongs (ends covered in rubber bands) to remove the jars from the pot. Pour the boiling water back into the pot. Then set them on the folded towel.
You can pour the hot water from the small bowl with lids back into the pot now too.
Put the funnel into the jar and ask/help your child to use the ladle to fill the jars with hot jam. Leave ¼ inch [.6 cm] of headspace at the top, since the jam will expand while boiling.
If your jam seems to have a lot of bubbles in it, run a knife along the sides of the jar to pop as many bubbles as possible. During the canning process, it’s important to have the least amount of air possible inside the jar.
Once filled, wipe the rims of the jars with a wet paper towel.
Place a flat lid on each jar and then loosely screw on the ring. Don’t screw them on tightly, since air will need to escape in order for the jars to seal.
Have your child hold the flat lid down with one finger, and then loosely turn the ring until it’s “just” tight.
#6: Process the Jam
An adult should now use the jar lifter to return the jars to the big pot. It is important that the water covers the jars by at least one inch. If it doesn’t, add some hot water and wait for it to boil.
Once the water is boiling, process the jars for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and carefully lift your jars out of the water.
Set the jars in the area you prepared without tipping them. It’s okay if hot water stays on the top of the lids.
#7: Check the Seals
Listen! Within a few minutes, you’ll hear the telltale “pop” of lids sealing. After one hour, check that the lids have sealed. Press down on the center of the lid.
If the lid can be pushed down, then the jar did not seal. No worries. It’s still good. Just put any unsealed jars in the fridge and check back, so you know when it seals. Once sealed, it can join the others on the counter.
Keep the jars that sealed correctly on the counter undisturbed for 12 hours. Then, label them, date them and stock your cupboards! They’ll be good for up to a year.
Some jars come with their own sticker labels, or else you can buy them separately. It’s also fun to create your own labels from craft material you have around your house. For example, make labels out of thin cardboard and then attach them to the jars with raffia.
If you can resist eating all your yummy jam in the next couple of months, you’ll have a few jars for the winter.
You can also give jam with pretty labels as gifts. Everybody loves strawberry jam, and when they learn that your family made it from scratch, it will be even more special.
Note: If you enjoyed the experience, have more family adventures and preserve different fruits and vegetables. I highly recommend Liana Krissoff’s Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry.
Some Final Thoughts…
There’s nothing better than opening that jar of strawberry preserves in the middle of winter, and knowing that you’re still eating local, in-season fruit that you preserved with your family.
As a bonus, everyone’ll remember the fun time you spent in the kitchen the past summer making the jam as a family. Your kids will be filled with the special satisfaction that comes from enjoying something they made themselves. And you can beam with pride. Enjoy!
What do you think? Is this your first experience canning or are you a pro? How did your family like canning? What did you name your strawberry jam? How did you make your labels? What other fruits do you like to can? Please leave your comments and pictures below.
Amanda Shaw is mom to three spirited children and doubles as director of content marketing at WebrunnerMG. On any given day, she dons a tutu or a hard hat. Other posts by Amanda Shaw »