Strawberries are one of those fruits that I just can’t get enough of. We picked 36 pounds of them this year (Andy is such a good sport about it!), and within a few days, we had eaten a third of them. No sprinkling of sugar, no baking them into a pie, no shortcake, nothing. Just stuffing them into our mouths, hand over fist. Yum.
As good as they were straight up, I knew that I wanted to make the summery goodness last a little longer. So after making pizza, shortcake and pie, and putting some on ice, I knew it was time for some jam. (Now, I’d never made strawberry jam before, but I knew we’d love it. And since we eat PB&J a lot, I knew it wouldn’t go to waste.) Andy was skeptical, advocating for more straight-up strawberry consumption. (I’ve talked about his feelings on “ruining” fruit before… strawberries, just like the mangoes, were made to be eaten, not sweetened and cooked into a jammy mess.)
Listening to canning jars “pop” and seal is one of the most satisfying sounds to ever come out of my kitchen! I love knowing that all of the time and effort was worth it. (Although, I have to admit, I was hoping that one wouldn’t seal just so I’d have an excuse to eat it right away…) I made two kinds of jam: a strawberry vanilla bean jam that doesn’t have additional pectin, and a strawberry blueberry jam with Sure-Jell. (The strawberry vanilla bean jam was the reason I busted out the canner and spent an evening boiling water, simmering jars and lids and heating up the kitchen during an unseasonably warm June. The sacrifices I make for food!) The strawberry blueberry jam was an experiment, as I didn’t have quite enough strawberries left after eating, so I filled in the rest with blueberries.
The biggest lesson I learned this time around? It’s probably not a good idea to try to cook two batches of jam simultaneously. You can only stir one batch at a time! Oh, and I need a bigger stove for projects like this. One canner, one pot with jars, one pot with lids and two pots with jam equals five items on the stove. A stove with four burners. (Andy did not seem amused when I told him I needed a bigger stove. Guess that’s something I should have mentioned BEFORE the kitchen remodel. Anyway…)
Strawberry Blueberry Jam on the left, Strawberry Vanilla Bean on the right.
Strawberry Vanilla Bean Jam
1 quart of strawberries, rinsed, hulled and chopped
2 cups of sugar, divided
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
1 lemon, juiced
Toss berries in a large bowl with one cup of sugar and the vanilla beans and seeds. Cover and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours. (You can chill this up to 72 hours; mine hung out in the fridge for about 24.)
Prepare three jam jars/half pint jars for a water bath. (This means sterilizing them in hot (not boiling) water and keeping them hot till you’re ready to use. And yes, this recipe only makes THREE half pints. Now you see why I made two kinds of jam at once. No way was I dragging out all my canning equipment for three measly half pints!)
Put the berries and remaining cup of sugar in a medium saucepan, discarding the vanilla bean pods. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium to medium-high heat. Then, simmer until the jam reaches 220 degrees. (I don’t know if mine ever got there. My candy thermometer wasn’t cooperating, and it was on the stove for FOREVER. Or 30+ minutes, if you’re going to be picky. But it tested “done” via the gel in the freezer test. And I was sick of stirring. And there was another pot of jam that needed attention. So I called it good.)
Add the lemon juice during the final five minutes of cooking. Ladle the hot jam into the prepared jars. Wipe the rims of the jars down, top with lids and rings, then process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove processed jars from water bath and let cool completely. When jars are cooled and sealed (you’ll know when you hear the “pops” and the lids don’t push up and down), remove the rings. Label and store for a winter day, when strawberries are just a faint summertime memory. Refrigerate any jars that don’t seal and use within two weeks.
From Love & Olive Oil
Strawberry Blueberry Jam
1 box of Sure-Jell (pink box – no sugar added type)
4 cups of crushed strawberries
2 cups of blueberries (I used frozen ones, as I’m clearing out my freezer for this year’s haul!)
4 cups of sugar, divided
Place fruit in a large sauacepan. Prepare jam jars/half pint jars for a water bath.
In a separate bowl, measure 3 and 3/4 cups of sugar. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar with the box of Sure-Jell.
Pour the Sure-Jell sugar mixture into the pan with the fruit and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. (Sure-Jell says the mixture should be at a full rolling boil that doesn’t stop in spite of stirring. Again, I’m not sure I achieved this, since my attention wasn’t 100% devoted to this batch of jam.)
Stir in remaining sugar and return mixture to the rolling boil. Boil exactly one minute. (And here’s where I may have missed the timing again… does anyone know how critical this is?)
Ladle the hot jam into the prepared jars. Wipe off the rims, top with lids and rings, and then lower into the water bath. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove processed jars and allow to cool completely before removing the rings. Label and store in a cool, dark place. Again, unsealed jars should be stored in the fridge and used within a couple of weeks.
Adapted from Sure-Jell