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Strawberry Habanero Jam

My mom was a canning fiend when we were growing up on Monte Sano Mountain. She canned jelly, bread & butter pickles (I have her recipe and when our cucumbers come in this summer, I’ll post it), spaghetti sauce, preserves, pickled okra, jam, tomatoes, dill pickles, green beans, apple sauce, pickled peaches, etc. You name it, she probably canned it. Almost everything she canned was from produce grown in our garden.

We moved up on the Mountain on June 29, 1972 (yes, I have a weird gift for remembering obscure dates!), so it was too late to have a garden our first summer. But the next summer, we had a nice little garden. My poor brothers moved tons of rocks (not literally tons, but it probably felt like it to them!) to get that first garden space prepped. They did the bulk of the wheelbarrow hauling, while my sisters and I helped pick the rocks out of the dirt. After a few years and countless hours of work, the garden blossomed (pun intended :-).

My parents were all about edible landscaping. Mom had a beautiful herb/wildflower rock garden with some azaleas and other flowering plants from my mimi’s house. However, the bulk of the landscaping was edible. I think my dad probably got this practical approach to “landscaping” from his father. My grandfather had a huge garden! Big gardens are especially helpful when you have five kids to feed. We grew lettuce, squash, cucumbers, spinach, peppers, horseradish, corn, okra, peanuts, cabbage, potatoes, and prize-winning tomatoes. Yep, Dad won an award one year at the Madison County Fair! He was so proud; we even had the ribbon framed. What I wouldn’t give for one of his tomatoes! They were so good, we’d go out to the garden with a salt and pepper shaker, pick a tomato, and eat it like an apple. Sometimes we sprinkled it with salt and pepper; other times we ate it plain. I can remember how it was still hot from the sun and how the juice would run down my arm. Oops, I got lost in a happy memory, time to get back to today’s topic: jam.

We also grew our own fruit – apples, pears, plums, apricots, peaches, and even grapes. Mom used the fruit to make jams, jellies, preserves, and fruit butters. In the blog last week, I posed a question – What is the difference between jam, jelly, and preserves? Well, it made think back to jelly and jam making with my mom and grandmother. I tried to recall what they said about the different types. If memory serves me correctly, these are the six different fruit concoctions we made:

1. Jam: Bits of mashed fruit, pectin, and sugar. I loved my Mom’s plum jam, with fresh plums picked from our trees.

2. Jelly: Fruit juice, pectin, and sugar. It was clear, no pieces of fruit. Mom’s famous jelly was her spiced grape jelly. In the summer, she made it with fresh juice from our grapes. In the winter, she made it with Welch’s grape juice. Wish I could find her recipe.

3. Preserves: Whole fruit, with pectin, gelatin, or something to make it set, and sugar. My grandmother made strawberry fig preserves with whole figs and strawberry Jell-O. It sounds weird, but it was delicious! I’ll post the recipe when our neighbors have figs to share.

4. Marmalade: Citrus peels, sugar, and pectin. Mom and I made orange marmalade once, but I don’t remember much about it…might be time to make some more.

5. Butter: Puréed fruit cooked down with sugar and spices. No pectin needed. Apple butter is my favorite, but I also like pear, sweet potato, and pumpkin butters.

6. Spread: Made without sugar and low-sugar Sure-Jell or some other type of pectin. We didn’t make this very often.

My latest culinary experiment was strawberry habanero jam. I made traditional strawberry jam last week, but added some chopped habanero peppers to one jar. I wanted to try it, but didn’t want to commit to an entire batch. I make pepper jelly, but I typically use a variety of peppers. For this strawberry pepper jam, I chose just habanero peppers because I wanted a pepper that had enough heat to stand up to the sweetness of the strawberries. It was really good and the heat was perfect for us. However, feel free to use red jalapeño peppers if you want a little less heat. We bought more Camarosa strawberries from Dennison’s over the weekend and decided to make another batch. This time, I made one jar of traditional strawberry jam and then added peppers and apple cider vinegar to the rest of the batch. It’s pretty tasty with a nice burst of sweet strawberries and then a spicy after-bite that lingers. I think it will be good poured over cream cheese and served with crackers. I could also see it as an excellent ice cream topping. I would probably enjoy the combination of sweet, spicy, and cold!

The recipe and instructions were tweaked from the Sure-Jell package insert (http://www.kraftbrands.com/surejell/howto_cookedjam.aspx).  Canning is new to me so I don’t feel totally comfortable advising people on how to can and process jam. I’ve included some basic instructions in the recipe, but please follow the instructions that came with your canner. I’m hoping to improve my self-taught canning skills by taking a two-part canning seminar at Harrison Brothers Hardware. Yay, I’m excited to learn more and gain some confidence in my canning ability. If you are not local and want more canning knowledge, you might want to check with your local County Cooperative Extension Office or Botanical Garden to see if they offer canning classes. Here is the recipe for my latest experiment with an important note at the beginning…

*Note: Usually I put ingredient notes at the end of a recipe, but this one is important to me. Please use caution when handling hot peppers. I have asthma and the capsaicin from peppers can trigger an asthma attack. So, I use a mask when prepping the peppers – washing, seeding, deveining, and chopping them. I also wear my trusty non-latex gloves. Luckily, I have glasses that usually protect my eyes, but I also have a pair of back-up kitchen goggles if they are extremely hot peppers. I might look like a dork, but I’m a safe dork :-).

Strawberry Habanero Jam

4 pints strawberries (5 cups crushed)

1 box fruit pectin (I use Sure-Jell)

7 cups sugar

¼ cup habanero peppers, finely chopped (seeded and deveined if you want less heat)*

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

½ teaspoon butter or margarine, optional (to prevent foaming)

Prepare you jars: Wash your jars and bands in warm soapy water. Rinse thoroughly. Then, I sterilize them for a few seconds in clean, boiling water and let them drain on a clean towel on the counter.  Pour boiling water over the flat lids and let them soak in hot water until ready to use.

Prepare the strawberries: Wash berries and remove the hulls. Crush the berries 1 cup at a time with a potato masher for the most uniform results. Do not use a blender, food processor, or hand blender. Crushing by hand yields the best results. Measure 5 cups of crushed berries and pour them into a large, sturdy pot.

Measure the sugar in a separate bowl. Seven cups is a lot of sugar, but you must measure exactly if you want the jam to set. If you prefer to use less sugar or a sugar substitute, you can use Sure-Jell for Less or No Sugar Recipes.

Stir the box of pectin into the crushed berries in the pot. Add butter or margarine to reduce foaming, if you want. I tried it once with it and once without it, both batches foamed about the same. So, feel free to leave it out if you want to. Turn the stove to high and bring the berry and pectin mixture to a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred) while stirring constantly. Stir in the peppers, apple cider vinegar, and the sugar. Return to a full rolling boil. Boil exactly 1 minute, while stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Skim off any foam. Ladle jam into prepared jars, filling to within ⅛-inch of the top. Wipe jar rims and threads with a clean cloth or paper towel. Carefully place the flat lid on the glass rim. Then screw on the band. Place jars on elevated canner rack. Lower rack into canner. Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches; add more boiling water if needed. Cover and bring to a gentle boil. Process the jars for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the jars from the canner and sit them on the counter. After jars cool, check seals by pressing the middle of the lid with your finger. If the lid springs back, the lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.

Let jars stand at room temperature for 24 hours.  Store unopened jars in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 1 year. Refrigerate open jars of jam for up to 3 weeks. Yield: about 8 cups.

  1. May 26, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Thank you so much for the jar of strawberry habanero jelly. I can’t wait to try it. It’s really pretty.

    • May 26, 2012 at 9:09 pm

      You’re welcome! Hope you enjoy the kick :) I’ll have more strawberry recipes soon featuring the beautiful berries we bought today! Beverages this time.

  2. May 29, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Just made this and it is awesome. Thanks so much for the recipe!

    • May 29, 2012 at 1:56 pm

      So happy you like it! Thank you for letting me know you tried it :-) Hope you try it in the balsamic dressing – delicious. If you think of some creative uses for it, please let me know.

  3. Kat
    August 11, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    Just wanted to say that I tried this recipe tonight and it turned out fantastic. I appreciate the detail in the directions. Everything was clear and it set properly. I think it would be amazing with egg rolls and I’m looking forward to trying that.

    • August 11, 2012 at 11:49 pm

      Yay. Thanks for letting me know, Kat. Glad you like it! I bet it would be great with egg rolls.

  4. Debbie
    June 11, 2013 at 11:56 am


    Made this last year and getting ready to make again. Did not print the recipe, but have found yours. My son mixes some of this yummy jam to barbecue sauce and we use it over chicken, burgers, pork or whatever we put on the grill if we want barbecue sauce. Gives the meat just a little zip. We have also found that this is great over goat cheese on a cracker. Just a couple ways we use this jam. Thanks for the detailed recipe. I will be using Sure Jel for less when I make this to see how it compares to the high sugar Sure Jel. Happy canning. I did so much last year that it is this jam and peaches this year. Still have a lot of dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, dilly beans, pickled beets and barbecue relish.

    • June 11, 2013 at 12:11 pm

      You’re welcome! Mixing it with barbeque sauce sounds great! Please let me know how it works with the Low Sugar Sure Jel. I’ve had mixed results using it. Probably because I’m not always accurate with my measuring! I’m learning you can’t just “grip it and rip it” when canning :)

  5. Rosebudd
    August 24, 2013 at 10:17 am

    We just got done making. Sampled the left overs and its delicious. Thanks so much.

    • August 24, 2013 at 10:23 am

      You’re welcome. Thank you for letting me know you tried it and liked it. So glad.

  6. sharon robinson
    May 25, 2014 at 7:37 am

    I used your recipe yesterday and ended up making 2 batches of it because we loved the flavor (we tasted it when I did the cold plate jelling test) This will be a recipe I use from now on. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

    • May 25, 2014 at 11:47 am

      Thank you for the feedback! Glad you liked the recipe : )

  7. June 18, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    I’ve been wanting to try making jam and this looks great! Getting some good ideas.

    • June 25, 2014 at 10:50 am

      Thank you for the comment! Hope you like the jam, it’s one of my favorite recipes.

  8. Lisa
    March 9, 2016 at 8:04 am

    Can you substitute balsamic vinegar for apple cider? I make balsamic strawberry jam and it’s very good. The balsamic enhances the berry flavor!

    • March 9, 2016 at 8:19 am

      I bet that would be delicious. Love strawberry balsamic dressing on salads. If you try it, please let us know!

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