Lifestyle

Preparing for Christmas in the form of Homemade Holiday Gifts

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It is freezing outside. We missed the strawberry-picking season! In July I posted about starting preparations for homemade holiday gifts, going raspberry picking and making raspberry jam. That post can be found here if you are looking for ways to reminisce about hot summer weather. It is also helpful if you are in search of homemade holiday gift ideas and don’t want to panic-create in just a couple of months time.  Yes… just a couple of months.

Gathering Ingredients

The holidays are quickly approaching. In the post about raspberry jam, we discussed making some homemade holiday gifts early in the year. Last summer, we made delicious strawberry jam out of local strawberries. We also discussed how we hope to do the same again this year. Sadly, the season got away from us and here we are in October scrambling to get our preserving done. The good news is that St. Jacob’s market still has a booth that offers fresh fruits and veggies in abundance. I am not sure how well they would last if you wanted to just eat them (these ones did start to turn after we had them about a day). Thankfully, they are still great for making into jam.

Strawberries and apples laid out on the counter ready for preparation

On Saturday, we purchased 10 containers of strawberries.  We were out picking up some more apples (we ran out last weekend). More on the massive bag of apples is coming later this week. I will link the post here when it is up. The strawberries cost $20 at the market and are in pretty good condition for eating immediately (yes we guiltily have firsthand knowledge).

They are in perfect condition for preserving and passing along to family members when the holidays arrive. Each batch of jam we made used about two and a half of the containers. From three batches, we ended up with 25 jars of strawberry jam to last us for the year.

close-up of strawberries on counter ready for preparation

We also purchased Certo liquid pectin as we have had great success with it in the past, 4kg of granulated white sugar (or 2 bags). On that trip to the store, we also picked up some extra 250ml mason jars. The house was running low because of all the raspberry jam and apple preservatives we have made this year for homemade holiday gifts.

Preparing the Ingredients

To make the jam, we simply followed the directions in the Certo liquid pectin package. Wash the mason jars to start, then turn the oven on to 225 degrees f. Place the jars on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven for 10 minutes. Put the lids in a pot of boiling water on top of the stove to sterilize them.

strawberries in the sink being washed before preparing strawberry jam

To prepare the berries, start out by washing them. Next, cut the stems off of the berries and add them to a bowl to mush them up.

Berries and Pampered Chef knife laid out on red cutting board to be preparedmeasuring strawberries in large Anchor measuring cup for strawberry jamStrawberries ready to be squished with the PC potato masher in the large Anchor measuring cup

This 2L measuring cup from Anchor was very handy, as we knew exactly how many cups of mashed berries we had, but if you do not have one this big you can always mash them first in a bowl and use a smaller measuring device to measure later. The recipe calls for 3 and 3/4 of a cup of mashed berries. We prefer larger pieces of fruit in our jam so we didn’t mash the berries too much. You can see some large pieces in the measuring cup below.

Mashed strawberries in large Anchor measuring cup ready to go into the jam pot

Making the Strawberry Jam

Once enough berries were mashed, we used the biggest stock pot we have to mix the remaining ingredients (except the pectin). I think the pot we used was a 30 (or 32) quart one, but a 24 quart one like this one would work well too. We did have extra space once the ingredients were added to ours. The mixture doubles in size when it is boiling, so just make sure you have a large enough pot to accommodate the boiling step.

Giant pot to make jam out of with strawberries in the background

With the berries in the pot, add 1/4 of a cup of lemon juice and 7 cups of granulated sugar. Following that, mix the ingredients and set the element on high to bring the mixture to a boil. We stirred the mixture periodically to ensure it didn’t stick to the bottom of the giant pot. Once the mixture starts to boil, put a timer on for a minute and then after the minute, remove the pot from heat.

Strawberries, lemon juice and sugar in the pot for cooking

Add the Certo liquid pectin to the mixture and stir it around, while also skimming off the light pink foam that rises to the top for about 5 minutes. The recipe in the Certo box says that if you do this step, it will help keep the larger pieces of fruit from separating from the juices. As you stir the mixture and skim the foam off, you can feel the pectin working and the mixture thickens up.

Box of certo liquid pectin on counter before being used

Preserving the Jam:

To make jam last longer, you need to carefully pour hot jam into the hot jars from the oven. Use sterilized tongs to pull the lids out of the boiling water and carefully put them on the jars. The jars will begin to seal. You will hear popping noises a few hours after they have been filled. The jam usually becomes thicker by the following morning.

We always check the jars the next day to see if they are the right consistency. We also check that they all sealed properly. If they did not seal, we have delicious jam in the fridge to eat within about 3 weeks. To be honest, I don’t think we have actually had any issues with lids not sealing when we have used this method of sterilizing the jars and lids. So far, we have had good luck with it thickening as well. Thankfully there are some instructions to remedy that in the box if you do run into an issue.

Strawberry jam in jars ready to be given away as Homemade Holiday Gifts

There will be another post up this week about a couple more homemade holiday gifts we will share. Do you have suggestions for homemade holiday gifts that you like to give? How would you present the items to people receiving them? I will post about what I decide to do once we get closer to December. For now, if you have any ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear them! Until next time, I hope you have a fantastic week!

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