Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Strawberry Vanilla Jam

Making jam has been on my cooking bucket list for awhile, but canning was one of those intimidating cooking processes that I always said I would get around to trying....someday. Well, last summer, my husband, we'll call him K just to make it easy, was really craving dilly beans, which are basically a dill pickled green bean (recipe to come later this summer!)  Since these aren't really a common thing to find around here, K and I decided to bite the bullet and figure out how to make and can these dilly beans.  It turned out that canning really wasn't all that hard, as long as you have the right tools and the time to do all the steps. Now this year, when strawberry season rolled around, I decide it was time to finally make that jam that I have been thinking about for years! Fresh summertime strawberries are probably my all time favorite food, so as you can imagine, I am really excited about this recipe. 

To start this recipe we need to clean, hull, and chop 2 quarts, about 8 cups, of strawberries. I wanted very chunky jam, so I quartered mine, but you can chop them up however you like or you can even mash them if that is the texture you are going for. Add 1 cup of white sugar and let the strawberries macerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight. I tend to be an impatient cook, so I only let mine sit for about an hour. Macerating the strawberries allows the sugar to meld with the fruit and draw all of the wonderful sweet juices out of the strawberries, so the longer you let them sit, the more these flavors will develop. If you are going to macerate for a longer period of time, stick the berries in the fridge. Since I only waited an hour, I left mine out on the counter.

Once the strawberries are ready, pour the berries and all of the liquid into a large pot and stir in 2 cups of white sugar and 2 cups of brown sugar. Scrape all of the seeds out of 2 vanilla beans and add this plus the beans into the pot.  If you don't have vanilla beans, substitute 2 tsp of vanilla extract, but don't add it to the mixture until after you have finished cooking the jam.  Turn the heat on to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Make sure you pay attention, because it will get very foamy and you should stir frequently but not constantly.

Reduce the heat slightly and continue to cook for about 20 minutes until the sauce is a thick syrupy consistency. Remove the vanilla beans at this point and discard them. If the jam seems too chunky for you, mash the berries up a bit with a potato masher or remove a small amount (about 1/3) and process in a blender. Be careful, as this mixture is extremely hot! Return the puree to the pot (if you decided to go this route) and add 1 package of pectin. Cook over medium high heat until the jam reached 225ºF on a candy or instant read thermometer. Once you reach the temperature, cook for 2 minutes and then remove from the heat.  For those of you that don't have a cooking thermometer, I would say this took about 10 minutes and the mixture was fairly thick and bubbly at the correct temperature.  Candy thermometers only cost about $10 and they have many uses, so I highly recommend picking one up.  By the way, if you are using the vanilla extract, now is the time to add it.  Spoon the jam into the sterilized canning jars, leaving about 1" of head room at the top of the jar. Place the lids on the jar and screw the rings on just finger tight.  Place the cans into a large pot of boiling water and process for 10 minutes. Make sure there is at least 1 inch of water above the jars and that the bottom of the jars are not sitting directly on the bottom of the pot because this can cause the jars to heat unevenly and crack.  My pot was not large enough to put a rack in the bottom, so I placed a small washcloth in the boiling water and made sure to set the jars on the cloth. This seems to work well for me. You will probably need to work in batches during this stage.

Once the jars have processed, remove from the pot and let cool on a rack for 24 hours.  You will know that your jars have properly canned as long as the lid is flat and tight and there is no little bubble pop to the lid when you press down on it. You can choose not to do the canning process and just put the jam into jars and store in the refrigerator for 3-4 months.

Pardon the bad picture of jam on toast, but this sort of shows how nice and chunky the jam came out. The jam is sweet and thick and the brown sugar adds a depth of flavor that you don't get with just regular sugar.  This jam is the perfect compliment to salty peanut butter, to spread on a warm English muffin, or to spoon over vanilla ice cream!  I have big plans for this jam to bake into strawberry shortbread bars later this week.

This recipe was inspired by these two Strawberry Vanilla Jam recipes from Use Real Butter and Matthew's Puzzle.  I canned this jam in 16oz jars like these and the recipe made about 3.5 jars. If you are planning to can more than once, I recommend getting a kit like this which has handy jar tongs, a funnel, and few other useful tools.  Make sure you have new lids every time you can something new, because unlike the jars and rings, the lids are not reusable.

Strawberry Vanilla Jam Recipe

Strawberry Vanilla Jam
8 cups hulled and chopped strawberries
3 cups white granulated sugar
2 cups light brown sugar
2 vanilla beans or 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 pkg. pectin

Combine chopped berries with 1 cup white sugar and macerate for 1-24 hours. Add berries and juices plus remaining sugars to a large pot. Cut and scrape the vanilla beans and add the seeds plus the beans to the berries. Stir to combine and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 20 minutes until slightly thickened. Mash or puree to your liking and remove the vanilla beans. Add the pectin and heat to 225ºF, then cook for 2 more minutes and remove from heat. Add vanilla extract if using instead of vanilla beans.

Canning Process
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and sterilize all of your jars, rings, and lids in the water. Remove from the boiling water, drain, and set aside until the jam is ready to add to the jars.  Carefully spoon the jam into the jars, leaving 1" head space at the top and make sure there is no jam on the rim of the jar.  Place the lids on the jars and tighten the rings to finger tight.  Using tongs, place the jars back into boiling water, making sure there is at least 1" of water above the jars and that the jars are not sitting directly on the bottom of the pan (have a rack in your pot or some other device to make sure the jars will not get too hot and burst).  Process the jam by leaving in the boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove the jars from the boiling water and let cool on a rack for 24 hours. 



  1. Can I please just reach into your pictures and eat those strawberries? Thank you for sharing your pie with us - it was just the right combination of sweet and tart plus the crust was perfection!