It’s time to plant your Berries! Every year we run out of homemade jam and I vow to make more. Elsa and Gabbie insisted on having PB&J every day for school lunches, and only the strawberry freezer jam would do. By mid-March we were down to three jars and the rationing began. The girls insisted that they had first dibs on strawberry and that Tim and I could eat the peach jam, but I would still occasionally sneak some strawberry on my toast. So, this year I’m going to make 30 pint jars of strawberry freezer jam – one jar every two weeks plus more to give away. My grandmother ‘Nanny’ was the queen of freezer jam – every trip home from her farm included a jar, and now I realize why she kept half a freezer full of the stuff. When she passed away in my 20′s, I learned how to make it myself, and it has been an annual ritual ever since. I rarely ever make cooked jam – freezer jam just tastes so much better, even if it isn’t as carbon friendly.
So how much is enough? Well of course that depends, but start first by figuring out how much fruit you eat in its different forms (fresh, frozen, jammed) then figure out how many total pounds of fruit are required and then how much space/number of plants you need to grow to yield that amount. The calculations for fruit are similar to the ones I described for vegetables in the article “Oh My is that 850 lbs of Veggies in your Yard?”. For our family of four I’ve figured out that we eat about 575 lbs. in one year (7 cups per day x .25 lbs per cup x 330 days). Here’s what I estimate we grow vs. what we buy in pounds:
(I Just realized that the qty of strawberries in my chart above is reversed – it should be 30 lbs for jam and 45 lbs. for fresh eating, which is equal to 20 quarts of berries for jam and 30 quarts for freezing and fresh eating – about 6 flats total).
Figuring out how many row feet to grow to yield what we need for every fruit in the chart above is a lot to tackle right now so let’s focus on just one – strawberries. The general rule of thumb is one pound per plant, but I’ve found that some varieties yield more than others. Last year we planted 100 June-bearing plants – 25 ea of Jewel, Earliglow, Allstar and Sparkle. Sparkle was by far the favorite, and Jewel was a dud for us, so I’ll plant more Sparkle this year. We get all our fruit plants from Nourse Farms in MA, for their high quality and superb info and customer service. All of the growing info is on their website so I won’t repeat it here.
For now let’s skip to the processing of jam, glorious jam. The girls have always been my accomplices and I have photos throughout the years of their participation.
We pick, wash, hull and slice, and then use Pamona’s Universal Pectin which requires minimal sugar to make it set. Last year I used about two full flats of berries (24 lbs or 16 qts):
6 boxes pectin + 40 cups mashed fruit + 2.5 c. lemon juice + 7.5 c. sugar + 7.5 c. water
yield = 25 pint jars (50 cups)
Here’s another no-sugar recipe that I’ve used that includes apple juice.
We also process other fruits – We freeze gallons of blueberries for muffins and pancakes, and this year I am going to try drying our currants and grapes for granola. The raspberries and blackberries disappear fresh into little mouths before I can estimate how many pounds are eaten, but when I can pick a batch I spread the berries on cookies trays so they freeze individually and then slide them into freezer bags. We also buy a wooden case of PA Amish peaches, skin them and slice them and freeze them as peach sauce for waffles on weekends.
Happy planting and jamming!