Season 17, Episode 19 Recap: How to Make the Best Strawberry Jam

Plus, Lisa McManus reviews canning equipment, and Dan Souza makes bread and butter pickles.

Published May 15, 2017.

This episode of America’s Test Kitchen opens with hosts Bridget Lancaster and Julia Collin Davison considering the virtues of canning. “Before fresh produce was available year round, canning is how we stayed alive during those long, cold winter months,” says Julia. Becky Hays then joins Julia in the kitchen and makes a batch of classic strawberry jam. Next, Lisa McManus reviews canning equipment, and finally, Dan Souza shows Bridget how to make bread and butter pickles.

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America's Test Kitchen TV

"Canning Classics"

Host Julia Collin Davison goes into the test kitchen with test cook Becky Hays to reveal the secrets to making Classic Strawberry Jam at home. Next, gadget expert Lisa McManus uncovers the best canning tools. Finally, test cook Dan Souza shows host Bridget Lancaster how to make the ultimate Bread and Butter Pickles.  
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Five Takeaways from the Episode

1. When Making Strawberry Jam, Crush the Berries Before You Cook Them: Doing this will shorten the cook time, helping to preserve that fresh, fruity flavor. Break them down, but not completely—you want some juicy chunks in your jam, after all.

2. Granny Smith Apples Are the Key to Your Strawberry Jam: They add some more fruity sweetness, and their natural pectin will help the jam set up without taking on an overly-gelled texture.

3. When Using Lemon Juice in Canning, Go with the Bottled Stuff: Fresh squeezed lemon juice is great for certain recipes, but it’s not your best bet when making preserves. Why not? Well, it’s got to do with safety. The acidity in fresh lemon juice can vary dramatically, while the acidity of bottled lemon juice is always the same. The level of acidity will impact the final product’s pH—and for strawberry jam, you want that pH level to be from 2.0 to 4.6. (For more instructions on making jam, check out our step-by-step guide.)

4. When Making Bread and Butter Pickles, Kirby Cucumbers Are Best: We prefer them for a number of reasons. They’re small, so they fit easily into canning jars. Larger cucumbers have more seeds, and those seeds can separate from the flesh of the cucumber, which eventually might lead to the disintegration of the cucumber as it’s being pickled. And hey—fresh is best! The fresher the cucumber, the firmer its pectin. And firmer pectin equals crisper pickles.

5. Sanitize Your Jars if You’re Processing for Fewer than Ten Minutes: However, if your canning recipe calls for processing times greater than 10 minutes, the USDA says there’s no need to sanitize the jars—any bad bacteria will be killed off while the jars are being processed.   

Quote of the Week: “The only thing that would make these better is a giant, giant sandwich of pulled pork.” —Bridget after eating a forkful of bread and butter pickles

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