I have such a hard time saying goodbye to summer. Yes, I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off, but something happens during these months that makes hard-working days a little easier to swallow. Maybe it has something to do with the warm nights on the dock, or seeing my grandbabies splashing in the pool. Whatever that “something” is, I’d like to bottle it up for those dark, chilly days that are just around the corner.
But if I can’t preserve the magic of summer, I can at least save some of the flavor. Canning is one way to keep memories of days at the beach and water-hose fights on the tip of your tongue. And the best part is, it doesn’t have to be all labor intensive to be so freakin’ good. My favorite preserves are strawberry. You just put the jam in containers and put ‘em in the freezer, or put ‘em in the fridge if you’re fixing to eat them right away. No processing; no fuss. Even Michael and my grandson Henry can “help” out, mostly by getting that gooey goodness all over their faces. And it is out of this world—just like the woman who introduced me to the recipe.
Bubbles Greene is one of the finest women I’ve ever met—it’s like she gets up everyday and lives for others. Truly. She and I were both born and raised in Albany, Georgia, but because she is 5 years younger than me, we ran in different circles. In fact, we didn’t actually become friends until I moved to Savannah. She was getting ready to send her stepdaughter to the Savannah College of Art and Design, and like any momma from a small, Southern town, she couldn’t stand her child being someplace place where she didn’t know anybody. So one day Bubbles called me up and asked if her stepdaughter could give me a ring in case of an emergency. Of course I said yes. Then Bubbles started visiting Savannah more regularly. She had come to my house when I first started The Bag Lady—I mean just started. And that spitfire of a woman jumped right into the kitchen with me and worked like a demon. We became the best of friends over egg salad sandwiches.
That was 25 years ago. Today, Bubbles still lives in Albany where she cares for her elderly parents and watches over my Aunt Peggy, cooking for her whenever she’s feeling under the weather. I don’t know what I’d do without Bubbles. She’s the best friend you could ever have—the kind of friend who’s always giving so much of herself.
The first time she gave me a little container of her strawberry jam as a gift, she said, “Paula, people have told me this is the best strawberry preserves they’ve ever had.” Y’all, I tasted it and I couldn’t agree more. It’s just one of those delightful homemade treats that you can’t put a price on.
Money can’t keep delicious strawberries in season or long summer nights from fading. It also can’t buy a friend like Bubbles. I suppose that’s why I consider this recipe to be both precious and priceless.
Freezer Strawberry Jam
2 cups crushed strawberries (about a quart)
4 cups sugar, in a separate bowl
¾ cup water
1 box SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin
Rinse 5 (1 cup) plastic containers and lids with boiling water. Dry thoroughly. Stem and crush strawberries, 1 cup at a time. Measure 2 cups crushed fruit into a large bowl. Stir in sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Mix water and pectin in small saucepan. Bring to a boil on high heat, stirring occasionally. Continue boiling and stirring about a minute. Add to fruit mixture and stir 3 minutes or until sugar is dissolved.
Fill all containers immediately to within ½ inch of tops. Wipe off top edges of containers and cover with lids. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours. Jam is now ready to use. Store jam in refrigerator up to 3 weeks or in freezer up to 1 year. Thaw in refrigerator before using.