Although strawberries aren’t quite in season yet, they will be soon. You’ll want to be ready with a simple jam recipe that won’t take all afternoon to prepare. There’s no need to make jam and other preserves in enormous batches, stickying up your entire kitchen and filling enough jars to keep all your friends and neighbours in jars for a year. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Jam making isn’t as big a commitment as many people think.
Small batches will keep you in freshly made jam for a week or two (depending on the size of your family and their appetite for jam), and can be stored in the fridge rather than processed in jars, if that part makes you nervous. Strawberry is classic, fancied up with a vanilla bean. Leave it out, if you like – or add a capful of pure vanilla extract rather than using a real bean.
Small-batch Strawberry Jam
1 L strawberries (4 cups), hulled
1/2 cup sugar
juice of half a lemon (about 1 Tbsp.)
1 vanilla bean
In a bowl, roughly mash your strawberries with a potato masher (you may need to lean into it at first, to get them going) or squish them with your fingers. Put them into a large skillet. With the tip of a knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds; add them to the pan along with the pod.
Add the sugar and lemon juice and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often and breaking up large chunks of berry with your spoon, until it thickens and your spoon leaves a trail across the bottom of the pan. (It should take about 10 minutes.) Cool and remove the vanilla pod.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups. Store in a covered jar in the fridge.
Photo credit: istockphoto.com/Sarsmis