Strawberry Vanilla Jam

Strawberry Vanilla Jam

So, I told you about the amazing chocolate-peanut butter birthday cake I made for myself.  But I would also like to tell you about part two of my birthday: strawberry picking!

Quite a while ago, my favorite farmer’s market vendor was selling freshly-picked strawberries.  I know this is typical for most of you, but here in Kansas City we don’t get much of that kind of produce in our local markets.  This was such a rarity that I gladly paid 5 dollars for a single pint, and the were quite possibly the best strawberries I had ever had, hands down.  Frank and I are growing strawberries, but because it’s their first year we haven’t gotten many and most of them are tiny.  So for my birthday Frank made a reservation at a little U-Pick farm in the middle of nowhere to celebrate my birthday.  We had so much fun, bending over in the EXTREME HEAT and picking beautiful strawberries to our hearts’ content.  We didn’t go too overboard as I wasn’t quite sure what to do with all of them.

I’m going to be honest here.  We picked all those strawberries, but we didn’t get around to using them right away.  After about a week I decided I needed to save them from rotting, and jam was probably my best bet.  Here’s another moment of honesty: I’m not a big fan of strawberry jam.  Friends of the family always make strawberry jam to hand out for the holidays, but I think it tastes artificial.  And you can forget about store-bought.  But I came across an appetizing recipe in my favorite canning blog and decided to give it a try.

Strawberries steeped in sugar and a vanilla bean over night, then turned into the most glorious jam I’ve ever had.  Let me tell you, people, I don’t even know what to say about this.  I wanted to make thirty jars!  But I only had enough berries for three…  But I am obsessed.  I eat it on toast, in my yogurt, or just as a spoonful.  I really urge you to make this, even though strawberries are nearing the end of their season.  It’s so incredible, and you can hang on to that strawberry goodness year-long with this beautiful jam.  Just a quick note, though: this jam is not very vanilla-y, if you’re worried about that.  It just adds a very pleasant backdrop.

Strawberry-Vanilla Jam
(recipe from Food In Jars)

(I halved this recipe very successfully and made about 4 half pint jars.  For the amounts listed, however, this’ll probably yield about 5 pints, or 10 half pints)

9-10 cups of strawberries, hulled and halfed
7 cups of sugar (divided)
1 vanilla bean
2 lemons, zested and juiced
2 packets of liquid pectin

Place the strawberries in a large bowl with 2 cups of sugar and the split vanilla bean over night or longer.  I probably let the berries macerate for a day and half and they were still great.

Prepare your sterilized jars for canning by bringing water in your canning pot (filled 2/3 full) to a boil.  Keep the jar lids warm in a warm water bath.

Fish the vanilla bean out of the berries.  Put berries and their liquid in a large pot and add the lemon juice and zest along with the 5 cups of sugar.  Cook over medium high heat for about fifteen minutes until the mixture is boiling and looks like a syrup.  At this point, you can either use an immersion blender or an actual blender to puree about half of the fruit.  Bring the mixture back to a boil and add the liquid pectin.  Foam will start to form on top of the jam, so skim that off.  Boil all of this for 10 minutes, stirring constantly.*

Fill the jars with jam and top with the lids and rings.  Tighten those puppies up and lower them into your boiling water.  Process them for 10 minutes and then lay them out on a towel to cool, listening for the lids pinging.  That’s my favorite part!  Now you’re done, and if you’re like me and your jam overflowed all over the stove, go ahead and start to cover that stuff with baking soda so you can scrub it off…

*Now, I am by no means an expert jammer.  Supposedly when you make jam with liquid pectin, the “jam point” is a big deal.  I didn’t know anything about this and just boiled the jam away FOREVER.  So my jam turned out really thick and unspreadable.  It doesn’t really matter, though, because it’s still delicious, but if you want to make sure your jam sets perfectly, you might want to read up a little more about the process.

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