Our fingers are permanently stained pink. So are our mouths.
Strawberry season is drawing to a close here in southern Wisconsin. What looked to be a fantastic season was hampered by days and days of soaking rains. While farmers were able to pick a fair amount to sell, the season was shortened and the u-pick availability was small. Our neighborhood farm was only open for a single day to pick our own.
I refreshed their web site obsessively for the ‘daily berry update’ and when they opened, we went. It was my three-year-old’s first trip and my parents accompanied us–three generations picked three flats in about an hour. We reminisced about my grandparents’ love of strawberries–they picked them every year and put quarts up in the freezer in sugar syrup.
Scarlet to the core, big and juicy–nothing beats a ripe local strawberry. We froze several gallon bags, made strawberry shortcake, my favorite quickbread and finished off the bounty with 11 half-pints of strawberry vanilla jam.
If you’ve never canned before, summer strawberries are a wonderful place to start. A little more fussy than blueberry jam (you have to hull the berries), but a little simpler than canning tomatoes (no peeling!). And who doesn’t love strawberry jam?
This recipe uses a combination of honey and sugar (and far less than many jam recipes) and the seeds of one vanilla bean. I use Pomona Universal pectin which allows you to use less sweetener than traditional pectin. For this recipe, I used half the recommended pectin. I like my jam soft-set.
You can also make this recipe sans pectin, but you will have to cook it awhile longer to get a decent set. It will be delicious, but saucier.
Also if you’ve never canned, I strongly recommend you do a bit of reading on safe canning procedures. I’ll talk you through it here–canning is very simple, but safety is important. Sloppy canning procedures can result in botulism, sickness and other yucky stuff. Keep it clean, folks!
I start by emptying my dishwasher and putting all of my glass jars and rings through the ‘sanitize’ cycle. I also begin heating up my canning water bath and place my lids in a small saucepan on simmer.
Strawberry Vanilla Jam
makes about 11 pints
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons Pomona Universal pectin
1/2 cup honey
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
10 cups hulled, mashed strawberries
4 teaspoons calcium water (comes with the pectin, follow package directions for mixing)
Whisk together sugar and pectin, set aside.
Combine honey, vanilla bean seeds, strawberries and calcium water in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. When at a full boil, whisk in sugar-pectin mixture. Whisk enthusiastically for 2 minutes to ensure it is dissolved.
When jam returns to a full boil, skin off any foam and then turn off heat.
Place a hot, sanitized pint jar on a clean dishtowel. If possible, use a wide-mouth funnel to fill jar, leaving 1/2 inch headroom at the top. Remove funnel and wipe rim with a clean paper towel. Place warmed canning lid on top, then screw on ring band until just tightened. Repeat and process all jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
Gently remove from hot water bath and let sit undisturbed overnight. In the morning, check seals by pressing finger in the middle of the can. It should not pop. If any cans haven’t sealed, store them in the refrigerator and eat in a few weeks. All sealed jars may be stored at room temperature for a year.