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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220 responses to “Urban Preserving: Small Batch Strawberry Vanilla Jam”

  1. Hi, I always use the pomona pectin and follow their recipe for canning (less sugar). is it ok to just add vanilla and lemon, and then follow the pomona recipe for the remainder? thanks!

      • Thank you! One more question – I just found your website a week after you were in Blooming Glen, which is just a few minutes away. But a trip to the city is always fun, so we’d like to take a class at Greensgrow. Just wondering if there is an age restriction – can I sign my 15 yr. old up?

  2. We went strawberry picking yesterday and I’m excited to try this as my entry into canning. I’ve got one quart of strawberries macerating with vanilla, but I also did another quart and added a spoonful of cocoa powder instead of vanilla beans. Can I just continue with the recipe from there or will that change it enough that it’s not safe to can? I’ve seen lots of cautions about untested recipes.

  3. Just made a batch of this tonight. It smelled so heavenly while boiling, but the bit I’ve tasted from the pan now that the jars are cooling is overwhelmingly lemony with hardly any vanilla. 🙁 Is this just the way it is? If I make it again, can I omit the lemon or is that necessary for safety purposes?

    I also always try to reduce the sugar in any recipe I make so I just stuck with 1 cup of sugar plus a good dollop of honey for this and it seems plenty sweet. Do you ever use honey or maple syrup instead of white sugar in your jams?

  4. i LOVE this recipe and have used it numerous times.

    would it work for similar berries – black raspberries of example? i have about a quart or so. thanks.

      • sweet. i guess i was just curious if strawberries had more natural pectin or something that would hinder the jam.

        do you have a list or anything anywhere (or know where i can find one) that details the natural pectin in fruits?

  5. So I love this site and ordered the new book! I tried making this recipe (strawberry vanilla jam) but it didn’t turn out 🙁 I’m wondering what went wrong?! I used powered pectin instead of liquid (but converted the ratios to match liquid) but wondered if that was the problem? I also ended up with half the amount of jars I was supposed to get…I measured the strawberries after washed, hulled and cut…wrong?

    • Trina, I’m so sorry to hear that you had issues with this recipe. I’ve made it many times without issue. Are you sure you made this exact small batch recipe? Because there’s actually no pectin in it.

      • Marisa, it sounds like she made the Strawberry Vanilla jam recipe from the cookbook, not this small batch one.

        I just finished up a batch of the cookbook version right now myself.

      • I tried this version of the recipe (without pectin), and bringing my jam to 220 degrees (I actually pulled it off the stove around 218 so it wouldn’t continue to heat past 220) resulted in a very sticky, very hard jam. I have to microwave it to soften it before use, and I hate the sticky feeling when I’m eating it.
        The flavor is divine, but most of the time, isn’t worth the hassle.
        Did I do something wrong, or is this jam just not my cup of tea?

        • It might be that you weren’t getting a true temperature reading, because the jam cannot achieve that kind of consistency at 218 degrees. Next time, skip the thermometer and just watch the jam as it cooks. When you can pull a line through the jam in the pan and it holds for a moment or two, it is done.

  6. […] I dragged my boyfriend strawberry picking with me a few weeks back. It was nearing the end of strawberry picking season, and we just managed to eke out enough berries from the plants to cook up into jam. I went ahead and bought some extra berries from the store, but I kept our just-picked berries separate and made them into a batch of strawberry jam with vanilla beans. The recipe is from Food in Jars (website) and can be found here. […]

  7. Hi, I would like to try the 4th burner pot for processing, but I’m a beginner and would need specific instructions. How high do you fill it up with water? And do you put the lid on? Thanks for your kind assistance! 🙂

    • Marlen, you fill the pot up with water so that the jars are completely submerged and then you put the lid on.

      • Perfect, thank you Marisa for the quick reply 🙂 Now I just have to figure out how to order the pot (just found out that it’s only available in the US; I live in Switzerland which is actually the home of Kuhn Rikon….) Thanks again and I’m looking forward to small batch canning.

        • Marlen, I very recently purchased mine off eBay and also found the asparagus pot on there as well for extremely reasonable prices, even with the shipping & handling charges to Canada! Hope that helps!

  8. So it’s ok to stack jars while canning then? I would have thought you wouldn’t want anything touching the lid and potentially messing with the seal.

  9. Help! I totally spaced out!
    I am a huge mutitasker, and sometimes things slip by me.
    I just noticed my jar of strawberries, Vanialla bean and sugar in my fridge as I was pulling out some peppers. I placed the berries in to macerate 9 days ago!
    The berry mixture is in a glass jar with a lid, no air.
    I hate to toss but 9 days…any hope?

  10. Do you have to use the lemon? Can you use lemon juice if so and how much? I wanna try this later, however I cant find vanilla bean 🙁 so I’m just have to do with out until I can track it down!

  11. Made it today and hooya is it yummy! I actually did 7 pints. No lemons or vanilla beans, so used 2 t. Lemon concentrate and 1 t. Vanilla. And my secret…1 drop of almond extract!

  12. Hi!
    I just finished making yet another batch of your oh-so-yummy jam! I quite recently began making tentative steps into this wonderful world of canning and your small-batch recipes are just perfect for me! My eldest daughter is a huge fan of yours & quickly pointed me towards your blog when I called to ask for yet more advice as I tried my very first batch of jam. Sadly that one didn’t turn out (syrup anyone?!) but after I began reading my way through this fantastic site I quickly discovered what I did wrong and was able to fix it the next go ’round.
    I decided to be brave & “mix things up a touch” after the great success I had with the other batches so this time I added raspberries to the mix, being sure to increase the other ingredients as well. Turned out terrific (or so the family says, lol) and all credit & many thanks to you & your wonderful blog. Without your blog with it’s easy to understand step-by-step articles, pictures, FAQ’s and recipes I would never have experienced the immense satisfaction that comes from knowing “I made that!” And also the “joy of the Ping” (lol).
    So thank you. PLEASE keep your Urban canning recipes coming and as I gain confidence I will eventually try my hand at the larger recipes in your latest beautiful book (I just got it the other day & am thrilled with it btw!).
    With warm regards,
    Wendy Harrison
    Edson AB, Canada

  13. […] a jar or two at a time so I process them in an asparagus pot from Bed, Bath, and Beyond (thanks to Food In Jars for that tip) and they’re done.  I know, it’s better to pick and process immediately in the […]

  14. Could I safely add a tablespoon or two of rose water to this? If so, would you recommend one or two tablespoons? Or, should I make your strawberry rhubarb jam with rose water and replace the rhubarb with strawberries & add a vanilla bean?

    • Sure, you can easily add a tablespoon or so of rose water to this recipe. Just go easy with the rose water at first. People have reported that theirs was much stronger than mine and so the amount I called for made the jam overpoweringly rosy.

  15. I just have to say, I made a batch of this back in April (the end of strawberry season here in south central Texas) and for some reason it didn’t set. This ended up being a blessing in disguise though because it made the most wonderful ice cream topping I’ve ever eaten. I just used my last jar over the weekend, and am now contemplating spending the $3 a pound at the grocery to buy some more berries to make another batch or two because it was that good.

  16. Which size 4th burner pot do you have? Could I fit a 1 1/2 pint jar in it? I like using them for my dill spears but often only have enough cucumbers for 1 jar. This would come in so handy.

    • I use the one made by Kuhn Rikon, mentioned in this post. If you take the rack out and put a this cloth at the bottom, a pint and a half jar just barely fits. It’s an imperfect solution, but does work.

  17. I made this last night – my first time ever making jam and the flavor was DIVINE! But — this morning I looked at my jars and the jam was still very wet/runny/watery looking…. I followed your directions… but something is amiss.
    I thought, as it cooled overnight, it would set or gel up better. Any advice? Shall I open them all up and cook it down some more, or what?

    • Sarah, it is a soft set jam. It’s not going to be entirely firm like store-bought jams. However, if it’s runny like liquid, then it needed a few more minutes in the pan. With these small batch jams, you really do cook until they’re seeming quite thick and set. You can recook it, or you can use it in places where a runny jam is just the thing. Up to you.

      • Thanks! I will just try cooking down a bit longer and see what happens. Runny or not – it is still so delicious!

  18. The recipe was easy to follow, however, it came out a bit to runny. I cooked it again to try to let it thicken up. The taste seems nice, but really wanted the consistency a little thicker. I didn’t expect store bought consistency, but quite a bit thicker than it turned out.

    • I just wanted to update my recent comment regarding the “Small Batch Strawberry Preserves”. As I mentioned the taste is very nice. I refrigerated one of the jar of preserves and the consistency became thicker, actually perfect. I will use this recipe again.

  19. I’m so looking forward to making this as I walk around the resurfaced farmer’s markets and gear up for canning season! I’m curious though – for this, and your other Urban Preserving posts, can you safely double a recipe? And I’ve always wondered – if you’re canning a lot in one session, can you re-use water from one water bath to another (i.e. pull out one round of completed jars after the required time, and then immediately add a new set to the boiling water)? Or do you need to start with fresh water every time?

  20. I tried this as my first time canning. I forgot the lemon juice, even though it was sitting on the counter ready to go! Do I need to store in the fridge?

    • No, it will be fine. In that recipe, the lemon juice is just there for flavor balance, not for safety.

  21. Thank you so much for this recipe. I made two batches last summer with strawberries our family picked. I am making two batches this week and hope to make at least a few more to last us the year. Those six little jars didn’t make it very long!

  22. 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.

  23. 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?

  24. 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!

  25. 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!

    • 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.

  26. 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!!

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

      • 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!!!

    • The 4th burner pot holds three half pints if you’re using squatty collection Elite jars. It will hold two wide month half pints.

    • Nothing is ruined. You just get a more assertive lemon flavor if you save it until the end. But there’s no harm in making as you did it.

  27. Hello, how long is the jam good for? I like to make jam for Christmas presents but have only ever done large batches. Excited to try this small batch recipe.

    • The rule of thumb is that for best quality, you should use your homemade preserves within about a year.

  28. Marisa,
    I love this recipe! I’m making it again but have only 1 vanilla bean. Can I add a dot of pure
    vanilla bean paste to make up for the 2nd bean? Thank you for always sharing great recipes and info. Small batches are awesome!

  29. Hi! Do you think I could make a larger batch? For example … If I let the strawberries for six half-pints sit in the fridge with vanilla beans, then processed it sort of along the lines of the Ball Recipe, would it turn out? Thanks!

  30. Thank you! I love your recipes and play with them to suit my tastes. This jam usually comes out a tad sweeter than I would like. So this time, I reduced sugar to 1 and 3/4 cup and added the rind and half the juice in while cooking (instead of the end). I kept the juice of 1/2 the lemon to adjust tastes at the end but didn’t need it. It turned with the right amount of sweetness for me, but also a little tangy, which I liked a lot. The fourth burner pot is wonderful for small batches like this!

  31. Fresh Strawberries – nothing like them! The jam looks totally yummy. And I love the idea of added vanilla in the jam- YUM!. That jam looks fantastic! Strawberry jam is my weakness….I could spread it on cardboard, lol. Great recipe!
    Hope you’re having a good week 🙂

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