Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tempted By the Fruit of Another

A few weeks ago we went strawberry picking. After strawberry limeade, shortcake, and five pounds in the freezer, I was pretty sure I had my fill of bulk strawberries for the season. Then I stumbled upon these little beauties at our local farmers market.
Go ahead, try one, the berry mistress taunted. So I did. Thirty five dollars later I boasted eight more quarts of the best damn strawberries I have ever tasted in my life. Hands down.

I paraded them through the market like the Pied Piper, their heady aroma my magic flute, surrounded by throngs of hungry children and parents seeking out samples from my flat.
Home was no better. Note the look of pure ecstasy on both Bean and Roo's faces.

But, as if often the case with the tenderest and tastiest of berries I had to work fast if I wanted to preserve this perfect burst of summer. And preserve I did. Meet my new canner.
Before I give it to you, a few notes about my recipe. The original Better Homes and Gardens recipe called for whole pink peppercorns not crushed black pepper. I had a couple of issues with pink peppercorns, the first being that our "close" grocery store didn't have any and after purchasing the berries, the canner, accessories, and jars, I wasn't particularly motivated to seek them out. Second, I don't think I really want to bite into a whole peppercorn in my jam, but that's just me. Hence the cracked black pepper. The lazy woman's substitution worked quite nicely in my opinion and gives the jam a subtle kick.

Canning, like baking, is precise. I am by no means an expert canner but I took my chances by also reducing the sugar by one cup. The thing is, before I made the balsamic pepper-laced jam, I made some plain strawberry jam from the same berries using the full seven cups of sugar the original recipe called for. Even my six-year-old deemed it way too sweet. So, throwing caution to the wind, I reduced the sugar here and lo and behold, the jam still set beautifully.
If like me, you're somewhat new to canning, here's some great basic canning info to get you on your way.
Balsamic Strawberry Jam with Cracked Pepper
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Can It!

12 cups strawberries
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1.75-ounce package regular powdered fruit pectin
1/2 tsp butter
6 cups sugar
1 tbsp cracked black pepper

1. Place about 1 cup of berries in a large bowl and crush with a potato masher. Continue to add berries and mash until you have 5 total cups of crushed berries. Place berries in a large heavy pot. Stir in vinegar, pectin, and butter. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar all at once. Return to a boil, and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with a spoon. Stir in cracked pepper.
2. Ladle hot jam into hot, sterilized half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe any goop off the rims and place the lids and rings.
3. Process the filled jars in a boiling water canner for 5 minutes timing from when the water returns to a full boil. Remove jars from canner and cool on wire racks or a dish towel for 12-24 hours. Makes about 10 half-pints.


  1. Looks fabulous! I've always wanted to learn to can but it seems so, oh I don't know, hard!

    1. Thanks, Julie! I remember "helping" my mom can when I was little but this was my first solo endeavor. It ended up being much easier than I thought and fun too. Go for it! I've already promised my husband some spicy pickled zucchini for tailgating season :)

  2. Goodness, this looks and sounds gorgeous. I am putting it on my must make list.


    1. Let me know how it turns out! Your sunblush tomato post is making me think that I might have to put the canner back to work on some tomatoes very soon. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. This looks awesome! I love strawberry jam (my momma and I used to make some every summer after berry-picking, although we went the freezer jam route - we're too flighty to actually go through the whole canning business) and I never would have thought to add balsamic to mine...but it makes perfect sense!

    Send me a jar? kthanks. ;-)