We live in the Pacific Northwest, so we take strawberry season very seriously. After a long, dark, rainy winter there is nothing more fortifying and life-affirming than strawberry season. It’s impossible to resist them, and this jam is one thing we make every year to preserve some of that audaciously fragrant and sweet strawberry flavor for the next long winter.
When you have a flat of perfectly ripe berries, there is almost nothing that can “improve” them, so we keep it pretty simple, but a vanilla bean adds just a little something without detracting from the flavor of the fruit.
Red Red Strawberry Jam
About 4 half-pint jars
Place a small plate in the freezer. Wash 4 half-pint jars, rings, and lids with hot soapy water and rinse them well. Place a round wire rack, silicone trivet, or a folded dish towel in the bottom of a large pot. Place the jars in the pot, fill the pot with water to cover the jars by 2 inches, and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes at altitudes of 1,000 feet or less. At higher elevations, boil 1 additional minute for each 1,000 feet.
Combine in a wide heavy pot or Dutch oven:
5 cups sugar
3½ pounds strawberries, hulled and coarsely chopped
¼ cup bottled lemon juice
(1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise)
Stir the mixture very gently with a wooden spoon over low heat until it has “juiced up.” Increase the heat to medium-high and stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Boil rapidly, stirring frequently, until it reaches the jelling point: The jam should be visibly thickened and fall in heavy, slow drops from the spoon.
If you aren’t sure, test the jam by spooning a small amount onto the chilled plate. Take the jam off the heat, wait 3 minutes, then take the plate out of the freezer. Pull a finger through the center of the chilled preserves. For a soft set, the sides should glide back together slowly. For a tender-firm set, the sides should not move and the surface should wrinkle when gently pushed.
If the jam has not reached the jelling point, place it back on the heat and continue to cook, testing it frequently, until it reaches the jelling point.
Take the pot off the heat. If using the vanilla bean, remove the pod, scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod and add them back to the pot, then discard the pod.
Ladle the jam into the prepared jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Wipe the jar rims. Place lids on the jars and screw on the rings until fingertip-tight. Place in the water bath, bring the water to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes.
Remove the jars from the water bath and let them cool completely. Test the seals: The lids should be depressed. Remove the rings from the jars and store the jars in a cool, dark place for up to 2 years.
After opening a jar, refrigerate it and use within 2 months.