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Summer Project: Teach Kids to Make Homemade Jam—In the Microwave!

Creating homemade preserves is faster, easier, and safer than you think.

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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!

Master Maceration
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 Power
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.

The Little Sous Kitchen Academy box teaches kids to become creative, confident cooks. Check out our subscription options—and get ready for some hands-on family fun!

Homemade Strawberry Jam

Making jam is a great way to help the best fresh fruit of summer last just a little bit longer. This fast, safe, kid-friendly jam recipe comes from the Little Sous Kitchen Academy subscription box Saving the Season, which is packed with lessons on preserving, drying, freezing, and pickling seasonal produce.

Once kids master this recipe, they can tackle all kinds of fruits, flavors, and combinations, like fig and honey or peach and cinnamon. Check out our huge library of kid-friendly recipes!

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Ingredients:

  • 4 cups fresh strawberries
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup sugar

Steps:

  1. Step 1

    Wash the strawberries in cold water and remove the green tops with a small paring knife or hulling tool. Discard the green tops.

  2. Step 2

    Cut strawberries into small, bite-size pieces, and measure; you should have about 3 cups of chopped berries. Transfer the berries into a medium, microwave-safe bowl, and put a couple small plates in the freezer.

  3. Step 3

    Finely zest the orange, and add 4 teaspoons of zest to the berries.

  4. Step 4

    Halve and juice the lemon. Remove seeds, measure 2 tablespoons of juice, and add it to the berries, along with the sugar.

  5. Step 5

    Stir until well-mixed, then let rest 30 minutes.

  6. Step 6

    Microwave the strawberry mixture for 5 minutes. Then stir and microwave for another 5 minutes; stir again, and microwave for 5 more minutes. (If jam begins to bubble over, cover with a paper towel or transfer to a larger bowl.)

    Sous Tip:

    Kids, beware—the bowl will get hot. While this technique heats our jam in the microwave, you can also make this recipe on the stovetop. Cook the berry mixture on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes. If you have a candy thermometer, you want the mixture to reach 220°F.

  7. Step 7

    When the liquid is syrupy, the jam is ready; it will continue to thicken as it cools. Test readiness by removing one of the plates from the freezer and dropping a spoonful of jam on it. Wait 1 minute, then poke the jam with your finger. If the surface wrinkles as you press on it, the jam is ready. If not, microwave for a couple more minutes, then repeat the test.

  8. Step 8

    Ladle the finished jam into 3 half-pint jam jars with fitted lids. Seal, label with the date, and keep for up to 1 month.