Summer in northern California provides an abundance of fresh, hand-picked strawberries that are found in these little stands dotted along the side of the road in areas near our house. Coming from central Illinois, where the most abundant crops were soybeans and corn, I couldn’t get over the fact that we instead have strawberry fields and the ability to purchase our fruit directly from the growers themselves. The bright juiciness of these strawberries can’t and won’t ever compare to those in found in the grocery store. Eating local never tasted so good!
We had just arrived back in California from a week-long visit in Illinois and my husband decided to take the back roads home from the airport. He knows me all too well because we took the route where the strawberry stand that was closed only a week prior was now open for business. First fruit stand purchase of the season! We left with strawberries, blackberries and cherries since choosing one was just not an option.
I accidentally let my strawberries get very ripe, almost on the verge of being on their last legs, so i had to figure out something to do with them and fast. My go-to is roasting them since the caramelization brings out even more of their natural sweetness. Perfect for jam.
Traditionally jam is made on the stove with a bit of sugar, pectin and lemon juice, stirring all the while, but that is not a process I can commit to with a 4-month old baby. This recipe almost isn’t a recipe, but I decided to share anyway because the end result is just so delicious. Here is an easy, almost hands-off approach to one of the best jams you can make at home.
- approximately 2 lbs strawberries, hulled and halved
- ¼ cup organic natural cane sugar
- approximately 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
- 1 vanilla bean
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
Place all the halved strawberries in a large bowl with the sugar and balsamic vinegar. Using a sharp knife, slice the vanilla bean length-wise to open it up. With the tip of the knife, scrape the seeds out of the pod and toss them in the bowl with the strawberries. Keep the vanilla bean pod and toss that in as well.
Gently stir mixture together, making sure the sugar and the balsamic are coating all the strawberries. Let it sit for about 10 minutes to macerate while the oven is preheating, then empty the contents of the bowl onto the prepared baking sheet and place in the oven.
Roast strawberries for about two hours. Once they’re done, the berries will be wilted in their juices. This is the good stuff.
If you prefer a chunkier jam, empty the contents (berries + juices, but not the vanilla bean pod) into a bowl and use a potato masher to break them apart to your liking. For a smoother jam, give everything a whiz in a food processor (again, except for the vanilla bean pod). Store in a glass jar or an airtight container and the jam should keep for about a week.