Urban Preserving: Small Batch Strawberry Vanilla Jam

one quart

As many of you know, I live in a fairly compact apartment (remember these pictures of my kitchen?). My husband and I have something in the neighborhood of 1,050 square feet that we call our own. In the last three years, my canning habit has expanded and between empty jars, full jars and equipment, occupies a goodly amount of our available storage space. Over the last 12 months, it was necessary as I was creating and testing recipes for my cookbook project.


This summer, I’ve decided that it’s time to scale back just a bit. And though I love having enough to give away to friends and family, I just don’t need to make vast batches of strawberry jam that yield five or six pints. For my own use, just a few half pint jars will most certainly do. And so I’m going to try something new here on the blog. Every week or two, I’ll be posted a recipe under the header “Urban Preserving.” These recipes will be small batch preserves, all scaled to use just a pint, a quart or pound of produce. The yields will be petite, perfect for those of you who have small households or are short on space, time or cash.

after macerating

Before I left town for the Memorial Day holiday, I turned a quart of strawberries into three half pints of strawberry vanilla jam. I bought the berries on a Sunday, chopped them up when I returned home from the farmers’ market and tossed them with a cup of sugar and two split vanilla beans. Poured into a jar, the berries took a three-day rest in the refrigerator. I didn’t actually intend to let them macerate for that long, but as so often happens, life was busy and I just could not find the time to make jam until Wednesday night.

small batch canning

One of the true joys of small batch canning is that there’s no need to pull out a giant pot to serve as your water bath. A small one does the job just fine. I have two such pots that work well as a tiny canning pot. The first is the asparagus pot that I wrote about here. The second is the tall, spouted pot you see above.

Called a 4th burner pot, this is truly one of the best and most versatile pieces of cookware I own. I love it for making pickles, because you can heat the brine in it and then pour it directly into the jars. It makes the perfect gravy pot during the holidays. It can double as a tea kettle. And because it’s got that rack, it makes a terrific small batch canning pot. See how perfectly those three half-pint Elite jars fit into it?


So, to catch up, I poured the jar of chopped, macerated strawberries into a 5 1/2 quart pot. I added an additional cup of sugar (bringing the total to 2 cups) and removed the vanilla bean pods. I turned up the heat and inserted a thermometer to track the temperature. I cooked the jam to 220 degrees and also eyeballed the back of the spoon, rivulet test. A lemon’s worth of juice and zest went it towards the end of cooking.

a full half pint

There’s another reason that making small batch jam is so satisfying. Because there’s less volume in the pot, it cooks down more quickly. That means it’s easier to get it to 220 degrees and often means that you can skip the pectin in recipes that might otherwise need it (I know that there are some of you who eschew the pectin entirely, but I’ve always found it necessary when making strawberry jam). Shorter cooking time also means a fresher tasting jam and such glowing color!

fresh out of the canner

The jam was poured into the hot half pint jars (it fit exactly, but I scraped every droplet out of the pot to ensure evenly filled jars), lids were applied and the jars were stacked into the rack. Lowered into the pot, they spent 10 minutes simmering in the handy 4th burner pot.

lidded up

Within 45 minutes of when I turned on the heat under my jam pot, the jars were out of the canner and pinging on the counter top. I took one jar up to Northampton last weekend to share with our hosts. The other two jars are tucked away for next winter.

A non-narrative, traditionally organized recipe is after the jump.

Small Batch Strawberry Vanilla Jam


  • 1 quart strawberries (a little over 1 1/2 pounds, should be approximately 4 cups of chopped berries)
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced


  1. Wash and chop berries. Toss them with 1 cup of sugar and the vanilla beans/seeds and place in a large jar or bowl.
  2. Allow the berries to macerate for at least 2-3 hours and up to 72 hours.
  3. When you're ready to make the jam, prepare three half pint jars.
  4. Pour macerated strawberries into a large pot and add the remaining cup of sugar.
  5. Bring to a boil and cook until the jam reaches 220 degrees, stirring very regularly.
  6. Add the lemon zest and juice in the final 5 minutes of cooking.
  7. Once the jam has reached 220 degrees, remove the pan from the heat.
  8. Pour jam into your prepared jars.
  9. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in your canner for 10 minutes (normally I'd admonish you not to start your timer until the water has returned to a boil. However, as long as your water is quite hot when the jars go into the canner, the time it will take to return to boiling should be minimal).
  10. When time is up, remove jars from canner and let them cool on a towel-lined counter top.
  11. When jars are cool enough to handle, remove rings and check seals.
  12. If any jars are not sealed, store them in the fridge and use them first.
  13. Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place.

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203 Responses to Urban Preserving: Small Batch Strawberry Vanilla Jam

  1. 151

    […] They almost perished in the plastic bag I used to transport them the two miles back to our house. Some had gone so soft I had to toss them in the compost bin. I looked up a recipe from Food in Jars and made a batch of Strawberry Vanilla Jam. […]

  2. 152

    […] to make, basically if you can mash fruit you can make jam.  Some of my favorite recipes include Strawberry Vanilla Jam from Marisa at Food In Jars, Triple Berry Jam from the Sure Jell insert, and Raspberry Jam.  You […]

  3. 153
    Madeleine says:

    Marisa! YOU and your vanilla just saved our strawberry jam!!
    Every summer we pick four flats of local strawberries and make jam with our kids. This year, after the canning it looked runny and too light pink…it also tasted sour- not too little sugar sour, but off-sour.
    I was ready to toss it and my husband plowed on, recooking all of it! We added more sugar and it became kind of pruney. Again, I said “toss it!”.
    Coming across your vanilla idea saved our jam!!
    We added it in and it became delectable strawb-a-licious-ness!
    Thank you for sharing your adventures and solving our (mis)adventure!
    Making jam is more chemistry than I realized.

  4. 154
    GC says:

    Hi! I was just wondering if it were okay if I were to substitute the sugar with honey instead? If that was possible, or would it affect the shelf-life of the jar?

  5. 155
    question says:

    How many 1/5 pints jars total did you end up with? I’m not using the 1/2 pint and wanted to know if it ends up being a pint and 1/5 or two pints. Just not sure with your pictures and forgive me if you mention it. Thanks!

  6. 156
    Julie M says:

    Hello! This is now my third year making this delicious jam. Recently, our large front burner on our stove went out, and I can’t get the repair guy out for over a week. I had already prepped two batches of strawberries for jam, when I remembered the 4th burner pot you used in this recipe. I quickly ordered one online. I just stacked the three half-pint jars inside (the same squat wide ones you have pictured), and I was concerned that the top jar would not necessarily be completely submerged in the boiling water as the jars usually are when I use a larger pot. Is this still okay because the steam is hot enough to get the top jar to temperature? Or should I just do two at a time instead? I don’t want to have a jar fail; they are too precious! Thanks!

    • 156.1
      Marisa says:

      If you have three wide mouth half pints (and not the extra squatty Collection Elite jars), it’s better to run them two at a time.

  7. 157
    Lisa says:

    Hi Marisa! I was just wondering if blackberries can be substituted in this recipe? I have some wild blackberries & think it would be amazing with the vanilla. This is by far my favorite strawberry jam recipe! I would like to removed the seeds from the blackberries before making the jam. Just checking with you to see what needs to be changed to keep it safe for canning with this substitution. Thanks!!

    • 157.1
      Marisa says:

      Lisa, just measure out as much blackberry pulp as you would use chopped strawberries. It should work just fine.

      • Lisa says:

        Thanks so much! The lemon zest over-powered the blackberries & gave a bit of a bitter taste. But I’m so glad to know I can do this again & just use less zest. The set was beautiful! I’m making your pickled cherries next! Thanks again!!!

  8. 158
    Leah says:

    Marrisa, Thank you, we love small batch preserving and vanilla in our strawberry jam. I recently wrote a blog about Homestead Jams and included your blog. Thanks again! http://bit.ly/1JOHbb3


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