Friday, April 5, 2013

Strawberry Vanilla Bean Jam... Fresh from the California fields.

Strawberry Vanilla Bean Jam in a jar

She's coming home. She's coming home. Tell the world, she's coming home...  with Diddy and Skylar Grey's tune coursing through my head, I see the Flight Radar showing the Boeing 757 at some 33,000 feet and winging its way my direction.  Some 6 hours to go and my girl will be home!

Lucky Liv spent her spring break touring the East Coast with tour-filled stops in DC, NYC, Philly and Boston.  Visions of monuments, the White House, Broadway, the Liberty Bell and the Statue of Liberty texted their way to my phone, but I'm eager to hear first hand the adventures my girl along with her 8th grade class have experienced over this week.

Statue of Liberty
While her days have been filled touring some of our country's finest sights, I've been a bit lonely.  My husband spent a good part of the week out of town, my son headed for the beach and with Liv "living life" thousands of miles away, it's been me and the pups.

I did OK for the first day or two (once the plane landed...), but then my heart went out to her as I woke up on the 3rd day to a text saying she had a stomach bug and had thrown up some 4 times that morning.  As the tour had checked out of their hotel, my poor sweetie spent the day hugging a waste basket on the bus while the rest of the class visited the Capitol Building and the Newseum.

Talking to her briefly I could hear her tears as she struggled to remain strong, but my heart broke being so far away.  As stomach bugs do, this one ran its course and left her weak but feeling much better just about the time the bus pulled in to NYC.  A good night's rest had her back on her feet and the next day photos of Broadway filled my phone.

Home alone with anxious energy I headed out with camera in hand, something that always brings me peace.  A long walk on the beach took my mind off the miles and a stop at the local farmer's market had me loading up on fresh organic California Strawberries.  The road home led past one of our local strawberry fields and I couldn't resist jumping out and snapping a few shots of the beautiful red berries as I watched a family from Utah pick their own.  The squealing of the little girls lifted my heart, and I headed home with my fragrant, red treasures.

Strawberry growing in a California Strawberry Field
My personal favorite jam has always been apricot, one that my mother used to make for me with the fruits from a backyard tree as I was growing up.  Last summer, however, Liv tried strawberry jam while on our vacation and begged the question, "Why don't we ever have strawberry jam at home?".  Good question.  My next trip to Trader Joe's brought a lovely jar of organic strawberry jam which I found good, but it wasn't my beloved apricot.  Liv and my son were happy though, so strawberry it's been for the last few months.

Wanting to have something special for her arrival home, I set to chopping my sweet, freshly picked market berries, adding sugar and setting the mixture to simmer for about an hour.  Knowing how she loves vanilla, the seeds from a plump vanilla bean found their way into the mixture just as the jam made its way into the waiting jar.

Having not been successful with canning in the past, this small batch of jam produced just about two cups of sweet, bursting with strawberry flavor, jam which I simply placed in a jar in the fridge without all of the hassle of the canning process.  I've read that the refrigerated jam will last a couple of weeks, but I have a feeling ours won't be around that long.

She's coming home, she's coming home... tell the world, she's coming home.

Strawberry Vanilla Bean jam over Greek Yogurt with Granola
My leisurely breakfasts this week have been a simple bowl of Greek yogurt sweetened with a touch of Strawberry Jam topped with Vanilla Bean Granola.

Small Batch Strawberry Vanilla Bean Jam
Using Cooking Light's Fresh Strawberry Jam recipe as a guide, I created a version suiting us with lower sugar and a hint of vanilla.  Our fresh, ripe berries brought plenty of sweetness on their own, however your strawberries might require a bit more sugar depending on the time of year.  Adjust to your taste!  Easy to make and bringing a sweet, bursting with flavor concoction which is so much better than the usual store bought variety, this jam is perfect for someone special.
Note this jam does not set up as much as one with added pectin and would also work wonderfully as a sauce over vanilla ice cream.
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4 1/2 cups fresh strawberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar
squeeze of lemon juice from 1/2 of a small lemon
beans scraped from 1 vanilla bean

Wash and chop strawberries and add to a pot over medium-high heat on the stove.  Add the sugar and stir often until the mixture comes to a simmer.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer lightly until the mixture thickens, ours took just under an hour.

Remove from heat and stir in the seeds scraped from your vanilla bean along with a squeeze of lemon juice.  Leave jam chunky if that is your preference, or blend with a stick blender before adding to a jar to cool.  When the jam is cool, cover and store in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.  Jam may also be frozen for about 6 months.

Makes about 2 cups of sweet, bright with flavor, jam.

Liv Life Note:  Our vanilla bean seeds sort of stuck together as I stirred them into the pot, a few whisks with a whisk helped spread them more evenly.

Carlsbad, California Strawberry Fields


  1. First of all - loved reading your post about Liv coming home! How exciting! As a mother with a daughter and a son too, I know exactly how you feel! Now to this jar of jam! Kim, it's gorgeous! ...and I love that you don't have to mess with the canning. OOH, I can just taste this on a hot scone! Enjoy your weekend...somehow, I think you're going to!

  2. Oh, I am so, so sorry that Liv got sick. What a trooper though. I love your jam. Even though apricots are my favorite fruit, a good, not-too-sweet strawberry jam will always snag my heart. Adding vanilla....see me swoon.

  3. Holy cow, that jam looks and sounds absolutely incredible. Cannot wait to try!

    Happy Blogging!
    Happy Valley Chow

  4. Kim,
    Your jam is gorgeous, and I can just imagine how it tastes with fresh, local strawberries. We have to wait a while for those.

    Too bad that Liv got sick, but kids are resilient, and bounce back quickly. Have a great homecoming with Liv, and enjoy the jam.

  5. Oh, that sucks that Liv was sick but hopefully she still had the trip of a lifetime. I'm sad to say that New York has been much colder than usual and she didn't quite get to experience a NY spring in all its glory. Still, it must have been a hell of an overall experience. And now you'll have your baby back...until she goes off to college, of course. ;)

  6. Oh no...sick so far from Mom! Glad she's better and headed home...but what an adventure she had. We leave for NY in less than 3 weeks ourselves. Love your jam...I'm convinced CA strawberries are THE best!

  7. What a great adventure for Liv but I am so sorry she had to deal with the dreaded stomach bug. Glad she bounced back quick. Our strawberries are at least a month and a half off but I am saving this recipe. It sounds soooo delicious and I love it can be frozen. Beautiful strawberry fields pictures!

  8. Sweet post and gorgeous strawberry jam! I've taken my Girl Scout troop to pick strawberries in Carlsbad-so fun! Glad to hear your girl has returned and is over the bug (no fun at all being sick, especially on a bus!). My goddaughter just got back from an East Coast trip too...maybe the girls bumped in to each other :-)

  9. Oh no! Poor little Liv! I am so sorry to hear that she wasn't feeling so good. That is never fun, especially when you are on a trip.

    This Jam looks so great Kim! I wish I had a jar right now. I actually think it would be perfect to have with some crackers & goat cheese! YUM

  10. Oh, that pesky bug! Glad it passed quickly enough for Liv to enjoy part of her time away.

    I bet this jam is so much better than anything you can get at TJs and this amount is just enough, too. Been buying strawberries by the bucket loads but they can't seem to last long enough for me to make anything with them. Would love to try this jam. :)

  11. My son has and allergy to lemons, oranges...basically citrus. Is the lemon juice essential to the recipe, or is there something I can substitute for the lemon juice?

    It sounds wonderful! Thanks.

  12. So sorry for the late response!! I don't think the lemon juice absolutely necessary. I believe that the lemon juice is used as it is high in pectin and allows the jam to set up a bit more, but with an allergy, I would simply omit and have the jam "less set". The flavors of this one are wonderful!


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