Ever since I was a little kid, there has always been something about the month of June that made me very happy…fresh, Michigan strawberries. Whether you get them from a farmer’s market, a roadside stand, a U-Pick farm or even your own strawberry patch, nothing beats the taste of a juicy, ripe strawberry.

A couple of days ago, Carol and I took the girls on a trip to Rowe’s Produce Farm in Ypsilanti, MI. They have a sizable U-Pick operation for strawberries, peas and raspberries in their respective seasons. We decided that this time we would get some strawberries.

Due to the early arrival of spring-like weather this year, the strawberry season got an early start as well. Out timing got us into the field at the latter end of the season. When we arrived at the field, the workers who showed us where to park reminded us to look under the leaves. That reminder was quite beneficial to us, since most of the plants from which we picked had a bounty of berries hidden by those leaves. In less than an hour, we had a bit more than 6 pounds of berries in our box (and the girls probably had a pound or so each in their stomachs).

Once we cleaned and hulled the berries, it was just a matter of deciding how we would eat them. Because I knew we had more than we would be able to eat while they were fresh, I immediately thought of making strawberry jam. One of the fondest memories of my childhood is making sandwiches using the foam from the top of the cooked strawberries when my Mom made jam. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the required tools (or apparently the patience) to make the cooked jam like she did, so I decided to make freezer jam instead.

We have been trying to cut down on the amount of processed white sugar that we eat, so I went looking for a recipe that had an alternative sweetener. I found several that used honey, but they called for a particular brand of fruit pectin that I couldn’t find at my local Meijer store. At the store I did find a container of Ball brand Instant Pectin that is for no-cook freezer jam. I simply followed the recipe on the label and did a straight substitute of Michigan-made clover honey for the sugar.

The outcome was fabulous. The texture of the jam was the same as I recall, but the flavor exceeded any expectations. Words can’t do justice to the explosion of strawberry essence that you get in every taste of the jam. There is a nice surprise though, a hint of honey that comes through as an aftertaste. It is unexpected and simply delicious.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

1 1/3 cups honey
4 Tbsp Ball Instant Pectin
3 1/3 cups mashed strawberries

1. Combine the honey and pectin in a bowl.

2. Mash the strawberries (you could use a potato masher, I used the blender and ran it in pulses on the chop setting until I go the desired consistency).

3. Stir the strawberries into the honey and pectin.

4. Let the mixture stand for 30 minutes and then ladle into containers.

(Yields four half pints of jam)

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