I don’t know what is happening to me people. I have gone from a high-powered L.A. lawyer, to a wife, to a mom and now …. to a canner. (Technically, I am still a high-powered L.A. lawyer, but lawyer and canner don’t really seem to go together, do they?) I don’t know where this is coming from, but I suddenly have the urge to preserve food. I can’t say how long I will can, or if I will ever can again, but folks, I have in my kitchen 4 beautiful jars of homemade strawberry jam. And it makes me happy.
If I were being honest, I would have to admit that my jam is a little bit too sweet for my taste. Most self-respecting bloggers would not blog a recipe until he/she knew it was perfect. I am not such a blogger. I want to share my hits and my misses. Besides, this jam is goooood, just not totally my thing. Actually, strawberry jam has never been my thing because I always think it is too sweet, but everything I have read says your first canning experience should be with strawberry jam – so I made it even though I knew I wouldn’t like it (I need help).
You will need:
5-6 cups chopped strawberries (mine are from Costco – 4 pounds for $5.49 – don’t judge – sometimes buying organic just isn’t in the cards)
1/2 split vanilla bean (vanilla beans are currently selling at about the price of gold – feel free to skip this step if you don’t have the beans to spare)
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 small pat of butter
1 packet liquid pectin
Make the jam:
1. Mix chopped strawberries, 1 cup of sugar and split vanilla bean in medium bowl. Cover and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.
2. The next day dump macerated strawberry mixture onto a baking sheet. Be sure to get all the little vanilla seeds out of the vanilla bean and discard the bean. This smells so good you will be tempted to just pour the strawberries on some vanilla ice cream and forget about the jam. Actually, that is probably a good idea. Just save some for the jam.
3. Take a potato masher to the mixture. This should really be done however you like your jam, I personally like some whole berry chunks so I did a fairly light mash. If you don’t want any chunks, mash the crap out of it.
4. Put berry mixture in large pot with remaining sugar (2 1/2 cups), lemon juice, lemon zest and butter (this minimizes the foam). Cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes or until the mixture begins to look syrupy (this actually took me about a 1/2 hour – I think because I didn’t totally pulverize my strawberries).
5. Once it looks syrupy, squeeze in liquid pectin. If there is any foam, take a spoon and scoop it out.
6. Let boil for another 10 minutes or so until the mixture is thickened.
Can the jam (oh man — I’m a geek):
1. Bring a large pot 2/3rds full of water to a boil (this will be your canning pot, make sure it is large enough for all your cans).
2. You’ll need 4 clean, 1/2 pint jars and lids. Put your lids in a saucepan of hot water to soften the sealing compound. Bring a kettle to a boil in case you need more water for your canning pot.
3. Fill the jars. There are awesome funnels for this process, but I don’t have any of the real canning tools yet, so I just used a 1/3 cup measure.
4. Clean the rims of the jars with a rag dipped in boiling water.
(Ed. Note: Canning hurts. I’m sure there are people who can do this with out burning off their fingerprints, but I am not one of those people. There is a lot of boiling water and scalding hot syrupy mixtures to contend with – it’s not pleasant).
5. Top the jars with the lids and screw on the rings.
6. Put a rack or folded towel on the bottom of your canning pot (you don’t want the jars to touch the bottom of the pot) and carefully place your full cans in. Again, I don’t have no fancy rack thingamajig, so I used a dish rag. Seemed to work just fine. Make sure the water covers your cans completely, if you need to add more water from the kettle, do it.
7. After 10 minutes, remove the cans from the water with a set of tongs. Let the jam cool and you will start to hear your can tops ping. This means you have a proper seal. All of my jams pinged (that’s what she said), but if yours don’t, no worries, just put the un-pinged jars in the fridge and gorge yourself on jam. You may not hear the ping, but you’ll know you have a good seal if the lid is completely flat and doesn’t give when you press on it.
Like I said, this jam is (in my opinion) too sweet. I really think this is because strawberries are sweet and sugar is sweet and strawberry jam is made up of strawberries and sugar, ergo strawberry jam is sweet. What this jam needs is not more strawberries and less sugar … no … this recipe needs the wonderous stalky deliciousness that is rhubarb. I think the tartness from the rhubarb will suit my palate perfectly. Now the trick is finding rhubarb in this God-forsaken city for less than $17 a stalk. If I can find it, I will make the variation ASAP.
What this jam is good for though, is buttermilk biscuits. The tanginess from the biscuits cuts the sweetness from the jam really nicely – so I made a batch (I clearly belong on a farm somewhere). It was delicious.
Ed. Note: Please forgive my incredibly subpar food photography. I’m not sure if I have mentioned, but I live in a cave. There is literally no natural light. I photoshopped these as much as I could, but they are still dark and dreary. Boo. The kitchen I build after I win the lotto will be full of light.