Strawberry and Vanilla Bean Jam

Vegan and Gluten free

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 When I tasted this jam I literally stopped dead in my tracks with surprise. It has the fruitiest, sweetest flavoured strawberry taste of any jam I’ve ever tried. And the fragrance of the whole vanilla bean! Mercy. Sorry to be so blunt but I need you to understand! It’s so. Delicious.  

Before yesterday I was so scared of making strawberry jam. It’s like the macaron of the cookie world. Or the croquembouche tower of the donut world. Basically it’s really hard to get right, because there’s barely any natural pectin in strawberries, and barely any acidity. So to get the jam to set is a tall task indeed. But strawberries are so cheap at the moment and strawberry jam is so damn yummy! I really wanted to try. I wasn’t even going to post about it (hence the very unpleasing photography) but it came out tasting so heavenly I couldn’t not share it. 

I relied on my trusty friends pectin and lemon to get this jam to set. Confession time! The first time around it actually didn’t set at all. There’s nothing sadder than bottling eight jars of jam, and realising not one of them has actually turned into real jam at all. 
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But there is a simple solution for all your wobbly jam woes. It’s a little messy, but it’s sure better than starting again! Unlike when I made Sweet Plum Jam, which barely needed any attention at all to do it’s thing, strawberry jam needs lots of love and attention. It needs to come to a “rolling boil” for at least one minute to set. It needs the right amounts of sugar, acid and pectin to set. It needs to simmer at a low enough heat for long enough to set. If you don’t get it to set the first time, don’t worry. I don’t think any person in the world has got it to set the very first time. 

If you find the jam is still runny once jarred, Pour it through a sieve back in to a pot, reserving the chunks in a bowl so that you can keep the texture. Add another half a lemon and teaspoon of pectin to the jam and repeat the boiling and simmering process again. It might not firm up into a perfect jelly consistency like Orange and Cinnamon Marmalade will, but it will be thick and delicious spread on toast anyway. And the flavour won’t be too affected by the small amount of pectin too. If you want you can try using jam sugar, but I’ve never used it so wouldn’t know how well it works. 

I like to eat this jam on toast for breakfast, but it’s also great with greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream. It would make a great base for chocolate mousse pots or even strawberry tarts, or as the filling for a jam scroll. Or you know, you could just eat it from the jar, which is what I just did.  

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Strawberry and Vanilla Jam: inspired/adapted from Poires au Chocolat and Lebovitz’ Ready for Dessert recipes:
1.25 kilograms (2.75 pounds) strawberries, hulled (about 1.5 kilos or 3.3 pounds unhulled)

750g (3 3/4 cups) white sugar + 3-4g (heaped teaspoon) pectin (or jam sugar with added pectin)

1 whole vanilla bean, split with seeds scraped out

1 whole lemon, juiced

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Hull, wash and cut your strawberries into small chunks. Stir in a large pot with the lemon juice and sugar and leave to macerate for at least an hour with the vanilla bean and seeds mixed in. Once juicy, place over a medium-high heat and bring to a high boil. Allow the jam to boil, stirring occasionally, for at least a minute. Place a small plate in the freezer at this point. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook for at first ten minutes, then take a small scoop and put it on your chilled plate. Return to the freezer for two or three minutes. Take it out and run your finger through it. If the jam wrinkles, it’s ready. Repeat this process until you have the right consistency. Pour the hot jam in your sterilised jars and leave to cool. The jam will last up to six months stored this way. 

To sterilise jars: Wash well in the dishwasher or in hot soapy water. Heat the oven to 100C or 212F and place the jars on an oven sheet. Leave the jars to dry out in the oven before bottling. Hold them in a tea towel because they’ll be super hot.IMG_6750

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