Virginia Willis shows us How To Make Strawberry Bourbon Vanilla Preserves, as seen on her Course Canning, Pickling and Preserving with Virginia Willis on Food Network Kitchen.
Recipe courtesy of Virginia Willis

Strawberry Bourbon Vanilla Preserves

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 5 hr
  • Active: 1 hr
  • Yield: Makes about 5 cups or 2 1/2 pints
Undoubtedly, making jams, jellies and preserves is best with a reliable thermometer. However, there are other ways to ensure the recipe is working and the preserves will set.  Before you start, place a couple of small plates or saucers in the freezer for testing the consistency of the preserves. When ready to test, spoon a sample onto the frozen saucer: if it's thick enough to stay mounded without running or spreading, the preserves are ready. If it's too runny, return the pot to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes more before testing again.  Jam is a thick spread made from chopped, crushed, sliced, or puréed fruit and sugar. It can be made with or without commercial pectin. Jelly is made from juice only. It can be made with or without commercial pectin. Preserves are another thick fruit spread made from fruit cooked with sugar, but in this case, large pieces of the fruit, or the whole fruit (as in the case of berries), are suspended in a firm jelly or less-gelled syrupy base. Marmalade is a soft spread made from the peel and pulp of citrus fruit and are used as spreads and glazes.



Special equipment:
Boiling water canner with a rack, canning tongs, canning funnel, six 1/2-pint jars.
  1. Combine the strawberries with the sugar, lemon juice and salt in a large, nonreactive bowl. (You can also just macerate the fruit in the pot you will be using to cook the preserves.) Cover and let stand for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator or up to overnight.
  2. Place a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet or line it with a clean towel. Set aside. Place several small plates in the freezer to use later to test the consistency of the preserves.
  3. Stir the strawberries to evenly distribute the sugar and transfer to a heavy 6- to 8-quart non-reactive pot. Place over medium-high heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar has melted completely, the strawberries begin to foam and the mixture looks thick, shiny and darker, about 20 minutes. Cook the preserves until it reaches the jelling point, 220 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 20 minutes. (If you don’t have a thermometer, you can also dribble a few drops of the jam on a frozen plate. If it crinkles when you run a finger through it and your finger leaves a clear line in the jam, it's ready. If not, check it every 5 minutes or so.) 
  4. While the preserves are cooking, place the canning rack in the canner and fill the pot with water; bring to a boil over high heat. When the preserves reach the jelling point (220 degrees F), use a slotted spoon to skim the excess foam from the surface. Add the split and scraped vanilla seeds and stir to combine. 
  5. Place six clean 1/2-pint jars (see Cook's Notes) on the prepared baking sheet. (This will help contain any dribbles or spills and prevent the jars from directly touching the metal.) For each jar, insert a canning funnel and carefully ladle in the preserves, allowing at least 1/4 inch of headroom. Clean the rims of the jars with a clean, damp towel and tightly secure the lids. 
  6. Using tongs, place the jars on the rack in the canner. The water should cover the jars by at least 1 inch. Cover the canner. Return the water to a boil and boil gently for 10 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the jars to a towel to cool. If the seal works and fits properly, the metal lid will be slightly concave within 24 hours of processing. Store the unopened jars of preserves at room temperature for up to 1 year. Once the preserves are opened, store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Cook’s Note

High-acid foods such as fruits, pickles, sauerkraut, jams, jellies, marmalades and fruit butters with a pH level of 4.6 or lower can be preserved by boiling water canning (low-acid foods, such as canned meats and fish, require a pressure cooker). Boiling water canning makes use of a large pot that’s tall enough to fully submerge canning jars by at least an inch of water. The pot is used for both sterilization of jars prior to filling and for boiling the jars once they are filled. You don’t necessarily need to purchase a boiling water bath canner if you don’t already have one. Any large, deep stockpot equipped with a lid and a rack can double as a boiling water canner. Keep in mind: The pot must be large enough to fully surround and immerse the jars in water by 1 to 2 inches and allow for the water to boil rapidly with the lid on. It is not necessary to sterilize jars beforehand if processing jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes of longer. The jars should instead be freshly cleaned and well washed in hot soapy water. Any jars processed less than 10 minutes must be presterilized and the lids and rings placed into simmering, not boiling, water. Rings can be reused, but lids should be new and used only once for boiling water canning. Since fruit size and weight can vary, you may have some leftover preserves that don’t fit in the jars to process. Simply store this in a clean jar in the fridge and use within a few days.