Several weeks ago, I got up early on Saturday morning, collected my friend Shay(she’s my regular fruit-picking buddy) and drove half an hour out into the New Jersey countryside. We spent the rest of the morning in the field of Gaventa’s strawberry farm, crouching over the rows of plants, plucking handfuls of berries into our containers. I stopped picked only when the back of my neck had turned a bright pink (I somehow only got sunscreen on my front, it made for an entertaining burn) and the knees of my jeans were stained red from kneeling on errant berries between the rows.
I brought home nearly 15 pounds of hard-earned berries (they were $1.35 a pound, I love how inexpensive things can be when you just invest a bit of your own labor). I washed and chopped nearly all of them (I kept about two quarts unchopped for plain old eating) within a couple of hours of getting them home.
I tossed approximately 10 overflowing cups of the processed berries with two cups of sugar and a broken-up vanilla bean and then tucked them into the fridge for a rest, so that they could get nice and vanilla-y. The rest I frozen in quart-sized yogurt containers, using the sugar syrup method recommended by Doris and Jilly (if you haven’t checked out that site yet, do it. There’s lots of good preserving info there).
I actually left the strawberries in the fridge for nearly two days before I got around to making jam. When it came time to cook the berries down, I fished the vanilla pieces out (squeezing out the vanilla seeds so that the jam was beautifully flecked) and then poured the berries and all the juice they had produced into my 10 quart stainless steel pot (this stuff foams, so give yourself plenty of room). I added the rest of the sugar and then proceeded to cook the crap out of those berries (that’s the official term) in order to assure a good, jammy set.
Of all the jams I’ve made so far this year, this one is my very favorite. There’s something special about strawberry jam and when it’s scented with vanilla and so rich in color, it’s just that much more amazing. Get yourself some strawberries and make this jam. Or, if you don’t feel like making your own batch, I do have one half pint jar to give away. Leave a comment by Friday afternoon for a chance to win.
- 10 cups of chopped strawberries (preferably macerated with a split vanilla bean and two cups of sugar over night)
- 7 cups of sugar (2 cups during maceration + 5 cups at the time of cooking)
- 2 lemons, zested and juiced
- 2 packets of liquid pectin (that’s one box total)
- Fill your canning pot 2/3 with water and put on the stove to bring to a boil (I used a large stock pot for this much jam).
- Put berries, sugar and lemon zest/juice in a large pot and cook over medium high heat for about fifteen minutes. You want to really boil the fruit down so that they begin to look syrup-y. If you have an immersion blender, use it at this point to puree some of the fruit. If you don’t, use a blender to puree about half the jam (working in batches, you don’t want hot jam to splash you).
- Add the blended jam back to the whole fruit jam. Bring to a boil and squeeze in the pectin. At this point, there will be a bunch of foam on top of the jam. Skim the foam with a large spoon. Let boil for approximately ten minutes more, until the jam looks very syrup-y (when boiling, it should resemble boiling candy).
- Lay out your clean jars, you’ll need approximately five pints or 10 half pint jars. Put your lids in a saucepan of hot water in order to soften the sealing compound. Bring a kettle to a boil now as well, in case you need a bit more boiling water for your canning pot.
- Fill the jars. Wipe the rims with the edge of a towel dipped in boiling water. Top with lids and screw on rings. Put a rack or folded towel into the bottom of your canning pot (you don’t want the jars to be in direct contact with the bottom of your pot). Carefully lower the jars into the boiling water. You can stack them one on top of the other if need be.
- Process for ten minutes in the boiling water. When time is up, remove the jars from the water and put them on a towel on the counter. They should begin to ping fairly quickly, indicated that they’re sealed. If any of your jars don’t seal, make sure to refrigerate them.