Chalk it up to the fact that I’m an old-fashioned kind of girl, but I just love making homemade jam. Maybe it’s because it makes me feel like I’m setting foot in Little House on the Prairie territory (gosh, I adored, actually still adore those books) when life seemed so clear and purposeful, with Ma working hard to stock her pantry with canned preserves so that there would be something fruity come winter. I haven’t yet gone the water-bath canning route yet—all the jams I make need to be refrigerated, but I am toying with the idea. No one’s going to accuse me of being trendy, right? Anyhoo, there’s just something so satisfying about whipping up your very own jam and ladling it into mason jars.
And we haven’t even gotten to how amazing it tastes yet! Especially when it’s this Strawberry-Vanilla Bean version made with fresh-from-the-farm-picked berries. The combination of strawberries and vanilla is to die for!! One bite and you’ll be a homemade jam convert for life!
And you so easily can be because despite what you may think, making jam is really one of the easier kitchen projects to master. This entire recipe has only three ingredients: strawberries, sugar and vanilla beans. And other than a little chopping and stirring, there’s really not much more to it.
There’s even a foolproof frozen-plate test to ensure that you’ve cooked the mixture long enough so that it gels up properly and gets all jammy-like. All you do is put a little spoonful of the hot, cooked jam on a frozen plate.
Then you swipe your finger through the middle. If the jam stays put and doesn’t run back into the empty space, you’re done and the mixture will “jam-up” as it cools. If not, you just cook it some more and test again, until you get that swoosh. Easy-peasy!
Guys, strawberry season is in full swing now, so at the risk of sounding bossy (who me?) I urge you to seize the day and hit the berry farm or your local farmer’s market and toss together a batch asap!
Just picture opening up your fridge and seeing all these adorable jammy-filled jars lined up inside!! Think of how happy and Little House your mornings will be!!
Strawberry-Vanilla Bean Jam
Makes 6 twelve ounce jars
Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus at least 30 minutes for berries to macerate; Cook Time: 25-35 minutes
4 pounds fresh strawberries, washed, dried, hulled and sliced (About 6 pints)
3 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean
1. Place the sliced strawberries in a medium bowl with the sugar and stir together. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the berry mixture. Add in the pod as well and stir it all together well. Cover and let macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes (you could also let the mixture chill overnight in the fridge)
2. Meanwhile place 2 small plates in the freezer.
3. Pour the berry mixture into a large pot and turn the heat to high. Bring to a boil, using a rubber spatula to stir frequently so that the mixture doesn’t burn. As it begins to boil, the berries will start to break down. If a lot of foam appears on the surface, you can skim it off and if the mixture is bubbling up too much, turn the heat down to medium. Let the jam cook for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. If it doesn’t seem to be thickening up, give it another 5 minutes.
4. Remove one of the plates from the freezer and place a small spoonful of jam on it. Let sit for about 30 seconds and then swipe your finger through it. If the jam doesn’t immediately run back into fill the empty space, but stays mostly put, you’re done cooking. If it runs back in, keep cooking for another 5-7 minutes and test again. You don’t want to overcook, but you do want the jam to set up enough. I always find that when I make this with fresh picked berries from the farm that are juicier than the store-bought ones, it takes longer to set up and this is a looser jam than others to begin with anyway. Once the jam is done, ladle it into mason jars or some other glass containers and let sit until at room temperature. Then cover with the lids and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
5. The jam doubles well, but if you do, I would cook it in two large pots, rather than one—for some reason, it just doesn’t work well cooking it all together.
Note: Recipe adapted from Sweet by Valerie Gordon.