I’ve been (not-so-patiently) waiting two years to make strawberry jam. The year I learned how to can I didn’t start until June or July, well after the last luscious red berries had been plucked. And last year, well, I’ve already lamented about missing strawberry season last year.
This year, we were lucky enough to catch the tail end of the Sweet Charlies and the beginnings of the Chandler strawberry crop; the Charlies are a super sweet, early berry, while the Chandlers are large, gorgeous, flavorful berries, each delicious in their own right. We picked a bucket of each, and didn’t waste any time turning them in to two batches of beautiful ruby red jam.
The strawberry vanilla jam might be my favorite. It is a traditional pectin-free jam, and so it’s cooked longer to bring out the natural pectin in the berries. The resulting flavor is sweet and sultry, and almost tastes like strawberry ice cream on it’s own, but when drizzled over ice cream becomes otherworldly. The strawberry balsamic is a quick pectin-based jam, so the flavor is brighter, more like freshly picked berries, with a hint of balsamic vinegar lingering just beneath the surface.
The strawberry season will likely last for a few more precious weeks; something I need to take advantage of. I’d love to explore more variations, I’m thinking a strawberry basil or a strawberry lavender jam could be life-changing. Strawberry peach? Meyer lemon? Chocolate? Black pepper? Red wine? So many possibilities, so little time.
If you’re interested in the strawberry balsamic jam recipe, I just added 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to the basic strawberry jam recipe that came in the low-sugar pectin package. When I’m looking for a bare-bones basic jam recipe, that’s usually the first place I go. Although the basic non-pectin recipe below could easily be adapted, replacing the vanilla with a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.
Strawberry Vanilla Jam
1 quart strawberries (approximately 4 cups, chopped)
2 cups granulated sugar, divided
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
1 lemon, juiced
Wash, hull, and roughly chop berries. Toss with 1 cup sugar and vanilla beans and seeds in a large bowl. Cover and chill for at least 2 to 3 hours or up to 72 hours.
When you’re ready to make the jam, prepare canner and wash/sterilize 3 half-pint mason (or equivalent) jars. Keep jars in hot (not boiling) water until ready to use. Warm lids in hot (not boiling) water to sterilize and soften seal.
Pour the berries and all liquid into a large saucepan along with remaining sugar, discarding vanilla beans. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer until the jam reaches 220 degrees F, stirring regularly. Add the lemon juice in the final 5 minutes of cooking.
You can test the gel of the jam by placing a spoonful on a chilled plate. Return to the freezer for 1 to 2 minutes, then check for doneness. If you want a firmer gel, cook for a few minutes longer.
When jam has reached the desired consistency, remove from heat and skim off foam. Ladle hot sauce into jars, leaving 1/4-inch of headspace. Wipe jar rims and threads. Screw on lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from water and let cool completely, 12 to 24 hours. Check seals. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used within 3 weeks.