Summer Project: Teach Kids to Make Homemade Jam—In the Microwave!
Creating homemade preserves is faster, easier, and safer than you think.
Our Kitchen Academy box “Saving the Season” teaches kids (and adults!) how to can, dry, pickle, and freeze the summer’s best produce for year-round eating. Doing so will also help them appreciate the fresh (and fleeting) ingredients they find at the farmer’s market or in their own gardens.
The main lesson in this box shows kids how to make homemade strawberry jam (scroll down for the recipe). Our method is made extra kid-friendly by keeping them away from the stove; instead they’ll cook the jam in the microwave.
Grab some berries and get ready to jam! Here are a few teachable tips from this lesson:
Wait and Wash
You always want to wash fresh produce before cooking with it, obviously, but strawberries (as well as raspberries and blueberries) should be rinsed with cold water just before you use them; any moisture left on refrigerated berries will make them go bad more quickly.
Hull in One
While most of us adults are comfortable trimming the green stems of strawberries (these are called calyxes, FYI) with a paring knife, young cooks can more safely hull their strawberries with the clever (and cute!) Chef’n strawberry huller included in our “Saving the Season” box. Or they can use a plastic straw to do the job: Simply push the straw up through the pointy end of the strawberry to pop off the top. Hulling a big batch of berries? Throw the tops in a pitcher of water to make a strawberry-infused drink!
Soaking fruit in sugar and/or liquid is called “maceration,” and is an important first step in making strawberry jam. In this case, strawberries are tossed with sugar and left to rest for about 30 minutes, wherein the sugar helps pull some of the water out of the strawberries, making them softer. The water then dissolves the sugar to create a delicious syrup. (This technique is also a quick way to make a tasty ice cream topping.)
Pectin is a fiber found in strawberries and other fruit that helps the fruit hold its shape—the harder a fruit is, the more pectin it contains. When pectin is cooked, it will thicken the liquid around it. This is why we can make strawberry jam without adding any extra pectin or other thickeners (such as gelatin)—there’s enough natural pectin in the fruit to thicken the jam.
Sharing is Caring
The best part of making jam is sharing it, so encourage kids to decorate their jars—we’ve included labels in Saving the Season—and give them to friends and family.