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.

chopped

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?

cooking

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  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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190 Responses to Urban Preserving: Small Batch Strawberry Vanilla Jam

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