Austin Urban Gardens

Raised Bed Gardening and Eating Well in Austin, Texas

Mid-Winter Strawberry Jam January 28, 2013

I have made Strawberry Vanilla Jam twice – both times failing to get the consistency correct, and ending up with runny jam.  It still tasted great, but it has been bugging me since I last made it months ago.

My own strawberries, planted bare-root, haven’t been looking like they are thriving, so when I learned that Markley Family Farms was going to be at the Triangle Farmer’s Market last Wednesday, I booked it on over and picked up some hydroponically grown strawberries, with making jam on my mind, (and getting it right.)


Many commercially made jams and preserves, use a 1 to 1 ration of fruit to berries, i.e. 4 cups fruit, to 4 cups sugar.  My favorite canning book, Canning for a New Generation, contains lots of lower sugar recipes, which I love, because they are healthier, and you can actually taste the fruit, rather than just sweetness.

I adapted the Classic Strawberry Preserves recipe in that book, (although I didn’t use the straining technique) to make my Strawberry Vanilla Jam.  I had 4 pounds of strawberries, which I rinsed well, then hulled, and chopped in half.  I used 4 cups of organic sugar, and let the berries macerate for about 2 hours before putting the pot on heat. I added more lemon than called for, because I like it – a bit over 1/4 cup and the zest of a couple lemons.

I scraped the meat out of 3 vanilla bean pods and threw the pods into the pot.  Once the  mixture started bubbling, I carefully skimmed off the foam, and continued doing so until the foaming stopped.  I put two spoons in the freezer for testing later.  Then I put in the vanilla bean meat, and stirred it in.

This time around, I let the strawberries cook down much longer, and noticed as the mixture became shiny.  It still wasn’t right at that point, so I continued cooking.  The red color mixture began to deepen, and I decided to test by putting some on the frozen spoon.  After the spoon sat out and warmed up to nearly room temperature, I could tell this time it was right.  When I tilted the spoon, the mixture held together, and came of the spoon very slowly, rather than running right off. At that point I removed the vanilla bean pods.

So, I loaded up my hot sterile jars, and processed in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

All lids down, and I can put to rest my strawberry jam failures of the past, and move on to something else.  Whew! Strawberry Vanilla Jam security.


Markley Family Farms is a hydroponic farm in New Braunfels, Texas. They grow other crops as well, but strawberries are their main.  They have “U-pick hours” during the high seasons, and also operate a CSA.


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