canning and preserving: two strawberry jams

This weekend we managed to squeeze in some time to put up 16 half pints of strawberry jam in two variants – balsamic and vanilla. This is our fourth year canning jam, and I think we’re really getting a good system down – meaning we’re more efficient and know the process well enough that we don’t spend as much time agonizing over the Ball book.

Mark picked up 8 quarts of berries from Mason Farms in Erie when he was traveling for work last week. Nothing beats PA berries in June, I’m telling you. I have no idea why people buy California strawberries this time of year from grocery stores in western PA because these strawberries are almost a different fruit they’re so tasty.

We use our dutch oven to make jam – it handles high temps nicely and can stand up to our stove’s power burner. This is the first batch of balsamic, which we made for the first time last year and just love. The vinegar adds the right acidity and deepens the flavor of the strawberries.

I was the strawberry prepper this year, so for at least 90 minutes, this was the scene in front of me. The chickens were quite happy with their treats. (They honestly run across the yard at full speed when they see me with strawberries. OK, well anytime I come outside and yell TREAT!)

Mark was the jar filler. He often does this step, probably because he’s tall enough to more easily reach into the pots.

We’re going to need to replace our canning rack soon because it’s starting to rust out. Four years of use is probably more than we can ask of the thing, being pretty cheap in the first place.

Boiling water baths and canning are nice, but the way it makes the kitchen an inferno is something I can pass on. We need to get ourselves a canning fan! Do they make those?

Our second batch was a new recipe variant, strawberry vanilla jam. We decided to do this one on a whim, having an abundance of vanilla beans. This next photo is Mark scraping the vanilla bean on a small portion of our kitchen island, which always looks a bit bloody after a strawberry processing day.  

The bean is scraped into the jam, and the outer husk or shell also goes in the jam during the cooking process to give it some more flavor.

We didn’t think the vanilla flavor was incredibly pronounced in the finished product, but it was subtle and quite tasty. Maybe if we make this again next year we’ll amp up the vanilla factor.

I love seeing our dining room table fill up with canning jars on towels. Means it’s really summer and we’re going to start stocking our canning cabinet again!

The rest of the 4 quarts of strawberries that didn’t go into jam were made into strawberry shortcake topping and cut into pieces for snacking (and enjoying straight up). We’ll be getting another quart in our CSA this week, but honestly I can’t get enough strawberries in the summer. The joy of having them for a short season makes me want to eat as many as possible while they’re around – and do things like can jam to save some for later!

Have you started canning anything this season? Are you eating your fair share of berries too?

  • Ber

    Summer strawberries make life worth living :-)