Last weekend, I helped with the food at my friend’s lovely garden wedding. As a thank you, I got sent home with all the leftover strawberries, all six pints worth. Fortunately, I love to make jam, and I have a friend who has a long-standing request to join me whenever I make strawberry jam. She came over, and we spent a fun hour and a half slicing berries, stirring and boiling away. We each ended up with 5 jars of jam for our efforts, and only had to pay for the jars (which we can reuse), sugar, and pectin.
Canning is probably the most complicated way to preserve food, but once you’ve got the hang of it, it isn’t too hard. It is important, however, to follow the directions exactly in regards to amounts of sugar, salt, and acid, and to do the hot water bath. In order to do this, there are a few tools that are either essential or incredibly useful. The absolute must is a canning rack or basket for boiling the jars in: without it, your jars will rattle around and possibly break. In order of what I love, but could possibly live without, there are also jar lifters (particularly essential if you’re using a canning rack rather than a basket), canning funnels (cuts way back on the mess, particularly with small jars), and lid lifters (helps prevent burned finger tips). As for the jars and pectin, I find those in my regular grocery store, and the tools I got at my hardware store.
According to the government, these batches are good for a year, so this could make great holiday gifts, or just provide an amazing taste of summer in the middle of winter. Or you could be like my friend and run through your entire batch in a month of so.
Please note that the first three steps are for sterilizing your jars and lids, and preparing your hot water bath. If possible, try and time having the lids and jars done at the same time as your jam is ready to can. This is probably the trickiest part.
Strawberry Vanilla Jam
- 6 pints or 12 cups of strawberries, halved
- 4 cups sugar
- 1 packet low sugar pectin
- 2 tbsp vanilla extract
- 8-10 glass half pint jars with good lids and rings (err on the side of more, rather than less)
- Run jars through an otherwise empty dishwasher on the hottest water and dry settings OR place on a cookie sheet in the oven at 225 F.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Make sure the pot can hold your canning rack or basket and has enough water to cover your jars by 1 in.
- Put lids in a small pot, bring to a boil, then turn off the heat.
- Measure 3 1/2 cups sugar into a bowl. Into a separate bowl mix remaining 1/2 cup sugar with packet of pectin.
- Place berries in another large pot, preferably enameled, and stir in sugar/pectin mixture.
- Slowly bring berry/pectin mixture to a boil, stirring frequently.
- Once the mixture boils, stir in remaining sugar and vanilla extract, bring back to a simmer, and allow to cook for another minute or two, then turn off the heat.
- Ladle jam into clean jars, using canning funnel if you have one, leaving 1/2 in of head space (i.e., stop when there’s 1/2 in of empty space in the jar). NOTE: If at the end there’s a jar with more than 1/2 in of headspace, do not water bath process it. Store in the refrigerator and use within a few weeks.
- Wipe off rims of jars with damp paper towel.
- Drain lids and place one on top of each jar.
- Place rings on top of jar and tighten
- Put jars in canning basket or on canning rack in your pot of boiling water, making sure they’re covered by at least 1 in of water.
- Leave jars in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.
- Place on counter to cool. If lid hasn’t popped inwards within 24 hours, store jam in refrigerator and use within 2 weeks. Otherwise, store in a cool dark place.