I made jam!! This is the first time that I’ve ever made jam and I’m quite thrilled with how it turned out. Last year I went to one of those craft fair thingy’s where people sell jams, and homemade crafts, candles, jewelry, scarves, things for your pets, and your home. Anyway, I bought a small jar of Strawberry Balsamic jam with Black Pepper. For $12.00. That’s right, I paid $12.00 for an 8-ounce jar of this stuff. Man, was it good. I savored every $1.50-ounce of that jam. I did not however want to keep spending $12.00 for a small jar of homemade jam, no matter how good. I knew I was going to have to try to replicate it if I wanted to keep enjoying this amazing blend of flavors.
Like I stated, this was my first time making jam so I didn’t have any pectin on hand. I used lemon. This jam didn’t get as thick as I would have liked, but I think I like it a little thin because it’s so much easier to spread. The jam was actually fairly set until I went to can it. When I make this again, I’ll make sure I bring the mixture to 220 degrees to ensure that it hits the jelly stage. I didn’t do that this time around. I noticed there were many recipes online that didn’t use pectin, so I don’t believe that was the problem so much as I didn’t bring it to 220 degrees. I also didn’t use near the amount of sugar that other online recipes called for because up to 1 cup of sugar per cup of fruit seems INSANE! I felt a little queasy using the cup and a half that I did end up using for 4 and a half cups of berries, but I look at it this way, it’s homemade, the sugar and berries were organic, there wasn’t any high fructose corn syrup in it or preservatives or chemicals or dyes. Just lemon, sugar, balsamic vinegar, black pepper and strawberries. Simple and beautiful. Oh, and really yummy.
The pepper in this jam isn’t hot, it’s warming. If you’re a little nervous about using 1/4 tsp, feel free to use a little less. I tried this jam with a little goat cheese on crackers and my eyes rolled back into my head. It was painful, but worth it. This jam is worthy of a fancy cheese plate. Move over fig jam, Strawberry Balsamic Black Pepper Jam is coming to town. Okay, that was corny. Sorry.
I canned my jars for 15 minutes. I had two pint sized jars and one 8-ounce jar. My two pint sized were only filled to about an inch and a half from the top.
Here is some important information on canning that you should know about if you don’t already.
- Jars should be made from glass and free of any chips or cracks. Preserving or canning jars are topped with a glass, plastic, or metal lid, which has a rubber seal. Two piece lids are best for canning, as they vacuum seal when processed.
- To sterilize jars, before filling with jams, pickles, or preserves, wash jars and lids with hot, soapy water. Rinse well and arrange jars and lids open sides up, without touching, on a tray. Leave in a preheated 175 degree F oven for 25 minutes. Or, boil the jars and lids in a large saucepan, covered with water, for 15 minutes.
- Use tongs when handling the hot sterilized jars, to move them from either boiling water or the oven. Be sure the tongs are sterilized too, by dipping the ends in boiling water for a few minutes.
- As a rule, hot preserves go into hot jars and cold preserves go into cold jars. All items used in the process of making jams, jellies, and preserves must be clean. This includes any towels used, and especially your hands.
- After the jars are sterilized, you can preserve the food. It is important to follow any canning and processing instructions included in the recipe and refer to USDA guidelines about the sterilization of canned products.
- 4-1/2 cups, fresh organic strawberries
- 1-1/2 cups organic cane sugar
- Juice from 2 large lemons (1/4 cup)
- Zest from one of the lemons (about 2 tsp.)
- Scant 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (finely ground unless you like chunks of pepper then do a coarse grind)
- 4 TB Balsamic Vinegar (don't use white balsamic for this recipe- I tested it with white and it isn't as yummy)
- Wash, remove stems and quarter the larger berries and halve the smaller ones and put into a large bowl. Add the balsamic vinegar and the pepper and stir well to coat. Set aside.
- In a large saucepan, heat the sugar and lemon zest and lemon juice over very low heat until the sugar dissolves about 7-10 minutes. I used an organic cane sugar that was minimally processed so I ran my sugar through my food processor to break down the coarse sugar crystals and make them a bit finer. Just a few pulses, you don't want powdered sugar.
- Add the strawberries and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that rises to the top. Reduce heat slightly, but keep it at a boil stirring frequently until the mixture reaches 220 degrees F. (Using a candy thermometer)
- Transfer hot jam to hot jars leaving 1-inch head-space and seal in a water bath. I let mine go for 20 minutes. If you have cold jars, let the jam cool for at least 15 minutes to reduce the risk of breaking your jars while canning in the water bath.
- See the post above for sterilization tips.
- If you're going to eat the jam right away, just put it in a canning jar and it will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks. It won't last that long though.
- If you don't have a candy thermometer, place 3 plates in the freezer. After 10 minutes of boiling, put a spoonful of the mixture onto the plat and return it to the freezer for 60 seconds. Run your finger through the middle of the jam and if it doesn't run together, the jam is ready. If it does, keep boiling and check in another 7-10 minutes.
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