My mother-in-law used to make strawberry sunshine jam when she was at the family cabin. It tasted like summer and I wanted to make it. Years ago, when I called her, she was starting to develop dementia and did not remember the recipe. Fortunately, I found two recipes, one in an old cookbook, and the other on a Website.
“Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking,” a comprehensive, two-volume cook book, first published in 1947, contains a recipe for Strawberry Electric Light Preserves. This is the same sunshine jam my mother-in-law used to make, only it is thickened by the heat of a light bulb. The other recipe comes from the Epicurious Website and it is a tripled version of the original recipe, with lemon juice to brighten the flavor.
What is the difference between jam, jelly, fruit butters, and marmalade? Jam is made from fruit, fruit pulp, and sugar. The fruit is crushed beforehand to release juice. The natural pectin in the fruit, combined with sugar, thickens the jam. Of course, jam may also be thickened with liquid or powdered pectin.
Jelly is made from sweetened juice and does not contain any fruit. Preserves are similar to jam, but made with whole fruit. You have probably seen cherry, peach, and apricot preserves in the grocery store.
Fruit butters are made from pureed fruits that are cooked until tender. After the fruit is strained, a small amount of sugar is added. Spices may also be added, as with apple butter. The sweetness of fruit butters comes more from the fruit than sugar. Marmalades are in a class of their own and made with fruit, rind, and juice.
When you are making preserves you need to be careful about the amount of sugar you add. According to “The Joy of Cooking” by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, “The less sugar you use, the greater the impact of the fruit flavor.”
Kids will be out of school soon and looking for things to do. Get them to make strawberry jam. This is a fun summer activity and the perfect way to celebrate National Jam Week. After you set the jam in the sunshine, keep an eye on it, and be on the lookout for squirrels, birds, ants, bees, and other wildlife.
Made in The Sunshine Strawberry Jam
1 quart ripe strawberries
1 kettle boiling water
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Hull strawberries. Put them in a colander and pour boiling water over them. Transfer berries to a 3-quart pan. Add 1 cup of sugar and heat to boiling. Boil over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Add the remaining sugar (2 cups) and boil 5 minutes more. Pour jam into a 12″ x 17″ x 2″ glass pan. Cover with plastic wrap, leaving a small opening to release moisture. Set jam in the sunshine and stir twice during the day. Bring the jam in at night, set in the sunshine again the next day, until thickened. Pour jam into hot, sterilized jars and seal with paraffin. Makes about 1 1/2 pints of jam.
Copyright 2009 by Harriet Hodgson
Harriet Hodgson has been an independent journalist for 30 years. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of Health Care Journalists, and the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from Amazon.
Centering Corporation in Omaha, Nebraska has published her 26th book, “Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life.” The company has also published a companion volume, the “Writing to Recover Journal,” which contains 100 writing prompts. Please visit Harriet’s Website and learn more about this busy author and grandmother.