You may recall, two weeks ago my mascarpone post contained three recipes, one of which paired strawberries with balsamic vinegar. What some of you may not know is that the day before, my blogging buddy, Sarah, whose blog Sarah’s Place, is one worth checking out, had a “relaxing” day that included starting and making a great deal of progress on a knitting project; preparing strawberry balsamic and black pepper jam from a recipe that she found on another worthwhile blog, Sydney’s Kitchen; and baking a rosemary-herbed focaccia studded with cherries. Did you notice the part about the jam? It sure did catch my eye, particularly arriving when it did, just before my own post featuring those same flavors. Suddenly, I was thinking about making jam.
Well, coincidentally, that Friday, a 2nd blogging friend, Michael, whose blog Oishi is another that I enjoy, posted a salad recipe featuring — you guessed it — strawberries with balsamic … and this time bleu cheese, too. It was then that I decided to make jam and, as I wrote to Michael, I would buy enough berries to make his salad, too. The very next morning at the Evanston farmers market, once Max had his much-anticipated rendezvous with Debra, the crossing guard, I found myself standing before 3 long tables covered with quarts of Michigan strawberries, over which hung a giant sign, “Last Chance.” Whatever doubts I may have had were quickly vanquished. I bought 3 quarts and moved on to the Egg Ladies’ stall.
Once home, I began to have second thoughts. No, not about making the jam; that and the salad were “done deals.” It was the timing. The forecast was for another day with a high well into the 90’s, hardly jam-making weather. So, remembering a link I found on Pinterest, I soaked my berries in a 10% vinegar solution for 10 minutes, to prevent mold, and refrigerated the red beauties. One would think that this would be where this tale ends. Yes, one would think …
You see, the original recipe would make only 1 jar of jam and it wasn’t processed, meaning it had to be refrigerated and used within 3 to 4 weeks. Well, I need to make enough jam to give jars to an entire team of tasters, as well as my Zia, and this recipe just wouldn’t do. So, I went looking for a canning recipe that remained true to the original, while making enough for each of my devoted tasters. Luckily, I found two. The first recipe, from Canadian Living Magazine, gave me canning instructions but the amount of balsamic required was quite a bit less than the amount used in the original. Not being an experienced canner, I didn’t know whether increasing the amount of balsamic would ruin the “set” of my jam. I had no choice, therefore, but to look for another recipe — and I and found one on Epicurious.com. With a balsamic amount proportional to that used in the original, a couple of commenters stated that they canned it without any problem. Eureka! Now armed with this new-found knowledge, I braved the heat and set pots of water to boil, as I cleaned and hulled my strawberries. So, to be fair, I’ll credit Sarah’s Place, Sydney’s Kitchen, Epicurious.com, and Canada for the inspiration for today’s recipe.
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Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar and Black Pepper Jam Recipe
yield: approx 8 cups
- 6 cups fresh strawberries, cleaned, hulled, quartered (approx. 2 quarts, whole)
- 4½ cups sugar – separated
- 1 envelope (49 g) low-sugar pectin
- 1 tsp butter (optional)
- pinch of salt
- ½ cup + 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp cracked black pepper
- Sterilize the jars and wash the jar lids and rings in hot, soapy water. Place lids and rings in a deep bowl and pour near-boiling water over them.
- Start bringing to boil a large, deep canning kettle of water to be used for the canning process and a second, smaller pot of water to be used to replenish water that may boil away during the canning process.
- Mix the pectin with ¼ cup of the sugar. Set aside.
- Working in batches, add sliced berries into a large bowl and use a potato masher to smash them. Continue until all are equally smooshed.
To Make the Jam
- Place the strawberries and the pectin-sugar mixture into a heavy-bottomed pot over a med-high heat. A Dutch oven works nicely. Add butter, if desired, to limit foam.
- Stirring frequently, you are heating the berries until a rolling boil is achieved at about 220˚F. A rolling boil is one that will not dissipate when the pot’s contents are stirred.
- Add the remaining sugar and stir well. Stir frequently while you wait for the pot to return to a roiling boil.
- Once a rolling boil has returned, keep stirring for exactly one minute before removing the pot from the heat.
- With a large spoon, carefully skim the surface to remove any foam.
- Add balsamic vinegar and pepper. Stir well to thoroughly combine.
- Using a funnel and large ladle, fill each jar to ¼ inch from the rim. Wipe the rim to make sure no jam has spilt, place a lid on each jar, and then the ring, tightening until “finger tight” but not as tight as you can make it. Act quickly, filling and capping all the jars.
- Jars placed directly on the kettle’s bottom might burst, so, a rack of some sort must be put into the canning kettle to cover the bottom. Many large pots have one, as do many pressure cookers. (I use a rack from an old pot that has long since been discarded.)
- Keep each jar level as you place them, one by one, into the canning kettle filled with now boiling water. The jars should not touch each other, nor should they be allowed to tip over. Depending upon the size of the kettle and number of jars, you may need to work in batches.
- Once the jars are in the kettle, make sure that there is at least one inch of water over the top of the tallest jar(s). If not, add boiling water from the smaller pot mentioned in Step 2 of To Prepare.
- Cover the pot and begin timing when the water returns to the boil. The jars must be boiled, “processed”, for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place a baking sheet on a level surface and line it with a clean kitchen towel.
- Once 10 minutes have passed, carefully remove each jar and place it on to the towel-lined baking sheet. Leave about an inch separating the jars.
- Once all the jars have been processed and placed on the baking sheet, remove the baking sheet & jars to a place that is draft-free and where they will remain undisturbed for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours have passed, check each jar to insure it’s sealed and then store on a shelf in a cool, dark place, where it will stay fresh for months.
According to several commenters on the Epicurious website, once canned, it is best to let the jam sit for a week before sampling it. The flavors blend and the pepper becomes more pronounced.
Once opened, the jam should be refrigerated and fully used within a month.
One last thing
I did make Michael’s salad and it was every bit as good as I had hoped.
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By any other name …
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