I am not exaggerating when I say this: This strawberry jam is one of the best things you’ll ever taste. No lie. You will never, ever want to eat jam from the store again. Not only is it way better for you, because it’s fresh and doesn’t have horrible things in it like high-fructose corn syrup and weird artificial dyes, it also makes a fantastic, super-cheap, seriously impressive gift. Why? Because people love jam and, for some reason, everyone thinks making it is really hard. In reality, all you have to do is remember the number two, and you can make jam from scratch from memory forever!

You’ll need:

  • One big, deep stew pot (like a two-gallon pot)
  • One big, deep saucepan
  • Two medium-sized glass jars with metal lids or three to five smallish jars. These can be any kind of jars: old salsa jars, old jelly jars, pickle jars, anything at all. (Because I’m a hoarder, I scour garage sales for vintage canning jars, which look extra authentic and adorable when you give jam as a gift.)
  • Two pounds of fresh strawberries
  • Two cups of sugar. White or raw sugar works best.
  • One lemon

1. Wash your strawberries and hull them (cut off the green part on top, so nothing but fruit remains).

2. Dump them all in your blender. Add about a cup of water.

3. Blend on high until you have liquid strawberries.

4. Pour the liquid strawberries into your saucepan. Add the two cups of sugar and the juice from one lemon. (You can squeeze the lemon by hand.)

5. Turn the stove on medium heat and boil the mixture for 30-45 minutes. Stir this often—you don’t want the jam to burn to the bottom of the pan! As you’re stirring, a strange pink foam will form on top of your jam. It tastes delicious, but you don’t want that in your jam, ’cause then it won’t be gorgeously translucent. Use a spoon to continually scoop the foam off the surface of the boiling jam, flinging it into the sink. (This is always strangely satisfying.)

6. While you’re stirring and skimming foam, wash your glass jars and lids. Fill your big stew pot with water almost to the top. Put the stove flame on high, drop your jars and lids into the water, and boil them for 10 minutes in a rolling boil. This is so we can sterilize the jars, keeping nasty things like mold from spoiling your jam.

7. You’ll know the jam is nearly ready when the color changes from light pink to a rich, deep red and the boiling noises start to sound a little…different. Instead of the wet noise of strawberry juice boiling, you’ll start to hear the jam go “blorp” and “pop.” The jam is getting thicker and losing liquid, so it’s making grosser noises. Keep stirring!

The jam is done when it’s a little more runny than you think jam should be. It’ll be slightly thinner than jam from a store—still a liquid, still pourable. We’re going to put it in the fridge later and it will set and thicken, so don’t worry.

10. Carefully take the jars out of the boiling water. Don’t touch the inside of the jars or the inside of the lids, that’s how bacteria/mold gets in! You can dump out the water into the sink and wait for the sides of the jar to be cool enough to grab and lift out, use tongs, or use a clean, folded paper towel to handle. And pour the hot jam into the jars. Fill them almost completely up to the top. Leave about a half-inch of room.

11. Put the lids on really, really tight, then flip the jars upside down on a clean kitchen towel for 10 minutes. This seals them.

After 10 minutes, put the jam jars in the refrigerator, right-side up. Your jam is ready when it’s cold, and you are going to freak out because it’s so delicious! Note: this jam will keep for about two weeks in your fridge. It will not keep on a shelf, unrefrigerated, like regular jam. We are only making fresh jam to eat, not preserving it for the winter, which is a more involved process.

Once you’ve got jam-makin’ down pat, you can screw around with the ingredients: mess with the sugar levels, add a box of blackberries, put in a bag of blenderized frozen mango slices (my favorite), add three sprigs of fresh lavender, shred up some fresh basil…you get the idea.

Get ready for the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches of your life, you guys. Also: this jam is AMAZING on ice cream. There are really no words. But there are pictures.

My personal taste-testers. Clockwise from top: Jen, Kelly, and Ellen.