This jam is amazing! It's sweet, spicy and super delicious!
I'll be the first to admit that I lost all sense of reason last week at the strawberry farm.
Scott and I had already picked a bunch of strawberries earlier in the season and we'd been enjoying them in salads, on our morning yogurt, handfuls of them as snacks, on ice cream, in salsa, even on pizza!
I went back to a nearby strawberry patch, not picking myself this time, but to buy enough to make a few jars of jam. As I chatted with the friendly woman behind the counter, I spotted a really nice boxful, brimming over the top with the sweet, ripe berries. Just as I was about to pay, the woman pointed to some boxes on the other side of the stand and said, "We also have the larger boxes over there".
Looking at the beautiful berries was my mistake - I couldn't resist. I answered, "Strawberries only come around once a year - and the season is so short. Why not?"
"Holy schmoly!" I said to myself when I got home and carried the BIG box into the house. "What did I get myself into?" I knew I only had a few hours to make use of the berries, as it was already pretty late in the day and I had plans to go out-of-town early the next morning.
So I set to work making Strawberry Freezer Jam. It's an easy task; other than washing and cutting up the berries, the jam comes together quite quickly. I almost always make freezer jam (vs. cooked jam) because it tastes so fresh, and there's none of the hassle of water baths and/or worries about jars not sealing.
Before I knew it, I had 4 beautiful batches of jam. That's 20 (yes 20!) 8-ounce jars of jam, all lined up like little soldiers on the kitchen counter! Bravo to me, I thought.
Then I looked to see how much of my stash was left. Yikes, there were still a LOTS of berries remaining. I was tired, but couldn't bear the thought of wasting any of them. More jam?
That's when I remembered seeing recipes for strawberry jam made with a splash of balsamic vinegar and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Pepper and strawberries. Really? At first the ingredient combination seemed quite odd to me, but I thought about all the rave reviews I'd read, and decided to create my own version.
I wondered if I could adapt my standby Strawberry Freezer Jam recipe to include balsamic vinegar and black pepper. I decided to give it a whirl. I was thrilled that it worked perfectly, and I could hardly wait to sample the new jam. Since it only takes about 30 minutes to whip up a batch of freezer jam, it wasn't long before I was able to (quite dubiously) take a little taste.
"Wow, wow, wow!" No one was home, but I didn't care that I was talking out loud to myself; although I couldn't wait to share it with Scott. And that was one of the first things I did when I returned home from my out-of-town trip. I spooned a generous amount of my new jam on top of cream cheese and showered it with finely snipped fresh basil. A stack of crackers was all that we needed to have a fabulous gourmet appetizer.
Since then, I've been finding lots of fun ways to use this Easy Strawberry Balsamic Black Pepper Jam. As a sandwich spread, over goat cheese, as a pizza base, with Brie - it also made a wonderful glaze for pan-seared salmon. It will be wonderful to have a stash of this in the freezer for gifts too. I thought of making a gift bag with some nice crackers, a log of goat cheese and a jar of this yummy jam. My sisters are coming to visit soon and I think I'll have one of these little gifts for each one when they leave (don't tell them though, I want it to be a surprise).
Oh yeah, and what I almost forgot to tell you is that I had enough of the remaining berries to make three batches of the pepper jam, another 18 jars! That's a total of.... oh never mind; it's a bit embarrassing that I truly did loose all sense of reason at the strawberry farm.
Whip up a batch of this wonderful jam, and I have a feeling you might just be "Wowing!" to yourself too. You might even find yourself going back to the strawberry farm. But if you see me there, just tell me to, "Go home!". Enough is enough!
- 4 cups sugar
- 1 quart fresh strawberries This is about how many berries you'll need, see exact measurement below
- 1 packet pouch liquid fruit pectin (I use Certo which is a liquid pectin but you can also use SureJell, a powdered pectin, just follow the instructions inside the box for freezer jam.
- ¼ cup good quality balsamic vinegar*
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper don't use ground pepper, it will make your jam look muddy
Wash and rinse glass** or plastic containers and lids in the dishwasher or with hot soapy water. Dry thoroughly.
Measure exactly*** 4 cups of sugar into a medium-size bowl.
Stem and crush strawberries. Don't try to use a blender or food processor for this step, as you want some small pieces of strawberry to remain (I like to use a potato masher). Measure exactly** 2 cups prepared fruit into large microwave-safe bowl.
Stir in sugar till thoroughly combined. Place bowl in microwave and cook on high for 3 minutes. Remove from microwave and stir well.
Add balsamic vinegar to strawberry mixture and stir. Add liquid pectin and stir continuously for 3 minutes. Take a taste to make sure the sugar is dissolved. If it still tastes a bit grainy, stir for another minute or two until almost all sugar is dissolved. Add pepper and stir till combined.
Fill containers immediately (you don't want jam to start to "set" before you get it into the jars) to within ½ inch of top. Don't fill any higher as mixture will expand a bit in the freezer. Wipe off top edges of containers and cover with lids.
Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. (I love the look of beautiful, vibrant red jam stacked up on my kitchen counter - call me old-fashioned, but there's something about it that makes me smile.) Refrigerate up to 3 weeks or freeze up to 1 year. Thaw in refrigerator.
*Balsamic vinegar can be crazy expensive. I'm not talking about the $200 per bottle kind. Actually America's Test Kitchen did a taste taste of grocery store balsamic vinegars and the winner was the "365" vinegar sold at Whole Foods. Trader Joe's also has a great 12 year aged balsamic.
**Don't worry about putting glass jars in the freezer. I've done this for many years and never have had a problem. 🙂 Just make sure to leave a half inch of room at the top to allow for expanding in the freezer.
And speaking of glass jars, I have a few favorites. Have you seen these charming Weck Jars? They are wonderful for gifting your jams, jellies and other canned goods. I also love these Quattro Stagioni jars.
***Making jam is a very exact science. Often when I cook, I add a "bit" of this or a "dash" of that - but not when making jam. If the proportions of fruit and sugar are not correct, the jam will not set properly. I learned this many years ago the hard way; instead of jam, I ended up with a soupy sauce that was only suitable for topping ice cream. Be sure to use an accurate measuring cup, spoon ingredients into cup, then level off with a straight-edged table knife.
Grab a magazine and set a timer for the stirring steps. Thorough stirring is essential when making freezer jam to ensure a smooth, not "grainy" finished product.Scrape the sides of the bowl frequently during the stirring process.
Yield: about 5 cups of jam