Strawberry Vanilla Bean Jam
In college, I liked to cook and bake. My cooking was of the semi-homemade variety, and my baking was pretty much always from a box mix (Funfetti, anyone?), but my friends who didn’t cook and bake at all saw this as very domestic and frequently told me so. It used to offend me to no end because I did not see myself that way at all. Fast forward some number of years, and I feel totally different than I did then. If someone were to tell me that now, my response would be something along the lines of “Heck yes I am!” You could say I’ve embraced this part of me and allowed it to become a large part of who I am today. The college version of myself would have never believed that I’d spend my days with a toddler and my evenings in the kitchen, but here I am. And you know what? I’m really happy to be here.
Like people who are either for or against nuts in desserts, I’ve found people tend to be either in the jam camp or the jelly camp. I prefer jam but am not averse to jelly, though I have yet to make it at home. I love the texture of jam because it’s made with the fruit in it (jelly is made from juice and is smoother than jam). We use our jams for so much more than for spreading on biscuits, and I’ll soon be sharing a great cocktail recipe that utilizes this jam. We’ve made a few different types of jam, but this one is my favorite so far. Sweet strawberries and vanilla bean make a lovely combination, and I want to put this jam on everything. Seriously. I may have to make another batch to get us through winter because the three jars we have currently are not going to last long.
- YIELD: 3-4 pint jars
2 quarts fresh strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped (about 8 cups)
5 cups granulated sugar, divided
1 vanilla bean, split and seeded
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
6 ounces (2 packets) liquid pectin
Combine the strawberries, 1 cup of sugar and vanilla bean seeds and pods in a large, nonreactive bowl. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes to macerate, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
When you’re ready to make the jam, prepare a boiling water bath and 4 pint jars. Place the lids in a small saucepan of barely simmering water. (See my water bath canning tutorial for more guidance.)
Place the strawberries in a large, nonreactive pot (I used my Dutch oven). Add the remaining 4 cups of sugar and lemon zest and juice and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat and be prepared for the mixture to foam like crazy (see my Instagram video to get an idea). Cook over high heat for 15-20 minutes, until the mixture takes on a thick, syrupy consistency.
Remove the vanilla bean pod from the pot. Use an immersion blender to ever so slightly purée some of the fruit, or transfer about about a third of the mixture to a blender to purée and then return to the pot. Stir in the pectin and bring to a rolling boil. Insert a candy thermometer and let the jam boil vigorously, stirring frequently, until it reaches 220ºF, and allow it to stay there for about 2 minutes. You can also gauge the jam’s set by letting it drip from the side of a spoon. If it drips in sheets, then you’re good to go.
Remove the pot from the heat and ladle your jam into the prepared jars, leaving ½-inch of headspace. Wipe the rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.