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.