I love making low-sugar jam because it allows the flavors of the fruit to shine without hiding behind gobs of refined sugar. This particular recipe is a bit decadent because it uses a real vanilla bean to add a touch of “cream” flavor to each jar. (There is no actual cream in the recipe.) You can certainly make it without the vanilla and you will still have a superior product because the sweetness of the strawberries is the main attraction.
This recipe calls for “Ball No Sugar Pectin” which is a commercial, low-sugar pectin. It can be found wherever canning supplies are sold. If you can’t find that particular brand, please follow the strawberry jam instructions inside the package of whichever brand of “low-sugar pectin” you can find. Add the vanilla bean seeds as I do here and the recipe should work beautifully for you. Each pectin manufacturer can have slightly different measurements or technique for making the jam firm up, so be sure to follow your brand’s recommendations exactly so you have a successful gel.
How Does Low-Sugar Pectin Work?
Many people ask me if the low-sugar pectin is actually an artificial sweetener. NO! It is just pectin with the addition of calcium. The sugars of the fruit combined with the acid in the recipe (usually lemon juice) and the pectin/calcium combo in the box are what create the “gel” or set. That is why it is so important that you not adjust the recipe other than seasonings. The exact ratios must be met for it to work. Cool, right?
Strawberries and Cream Jam Recipe
You will need:
Water bath canner
4-6 (8 oz) half pint canning jars w/two piece lids
About 4 lbs of fresh strawberries
1 cup unsweetened apple juice
1 (1.75 oz )pkg Ball No-Sugar Pectin
1 whole vanilla bean
½ tsp. butter or margarine (optional)
1 ½ cup granulated sugar
Fill your water bath canner with enough water to cover the jars by at least one inch. Click to learn more about water bath canning.
Wash all jars and lids in hot soapy water. Rinse and check tops of jars for chips. Discard any chipped or cracked jars. You do not need to sterilize these jars because you will be water bath canning them for 10 minutes, which sterilizes the jars during the processing. Just place the jars in the water bath canner while you bring it up to temperature and the jars will be hot when you are ready to add the hot jam.
Wash and hull the strawberries. Slice them in half and gently crush them until you have 4 cups of crushed strawberries. Save the remaining strawberries for another use (such as ice cream or waffle topping).
In a large, 6-8 quart heavy-bottomed pot, over a medium flame, combine the strawberries, apple juice and pectin. Use a sharp knife to cut down the center of the vanilla bean, open it and gently scrape out the black seeds from the entire bean. Add all of the seeds to the strawberry/apple juice mixture and stir well. Add the entire vanilla bean pod into to the mixture as well.
To reduce foaming, you can add the butter or margarine to the pot if you wish. Raise heat and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Stir constantly to prevent burning. Once you have the full boil, add the sugar and return to a full rolling boil. Then, boil for three minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
Remove from heat. Skim off and discard foam if necessary. Remove the large vanilla bean pod, rinse and set aside to dry. (Do not throw the vanilla bean away. Once it is dry, you can add it to a jar of sugar to create “vanilla sugar”. In a week or two, use the sugar in baking or in drinks.)
Fill your hot jars with jam, leaving a ¼ inch headspace. Use a clean damp paper towel to wipe the tops of the jars. Add a hot lid to each jar and apply the metal ring (or band). Only tighten the band to “finger tight” – Do not crank it down too tightly.
Place the jars in the canner being sure that water covers the tops of the jars by at least 1-2 inches. Bring the water in the canner to a steady boil. Begin timing and process the jars for 10 minutes. If you are over 1,000 feet, you need to adjust your time for altitude according to the altitude chart found on our water bath 101.
Remove jars from canner and set upright on a towel to cool undisturbed for 12-24 hours. After cooling, check seals by pressing in the center of the lid. If a lid does NOT flex up and down, it is sealed. Store sealed jars on the pantry shelf for up to one year. Any unsealed jars (with flexing lids) need to be stored in the refrigerator and eaten within a few weeks.
Theresa Loe is theCo-Executive Producer of Growing A Greener World. She is trained as a Master Food Preserver and is an expert in city homesteading, home preservation and educational gardens/gardening with children. She also blogs about homesteading at LivingHomegrown.com