Strawberry season is wrapping up here; our close proximity to Oxnard, The Land of Strawberries brings us wonderful, luscious berries months after the peak season is over. After seeing those, how can I refuse to take some home? I brought home a half a flat (6 pints) with the mind to make a batch of jam.
See, a few weeks ago, my mom bought a few boxes of mason jars and handed them to me with the instructions of, “Fill these for Christmas.” Okie dokie.
Now, earlier this year I made just plain old Strawberry Jam, and I have all of those tucked away in the cupboard, waiting for the holidays. This time, I wanted to branch out and try something new. I had heard of this recipe, which piqued my interest–I love strawberries with black pepper and balsamic vinegar (maybe one day I’ll tell you the story of a dessert special I made during my cheffing days of homemade strawberry ice cream, black pepper shortbread cookies, and a balsamic reduction drizzle), and I have some very happy little mint plants hanging around that could use some trimming. But, did you see that recipe? It’s a three day process. I’m sure it’s amazing, and I might try it another day, but not this time. It’s Labor Day weekend–the last thing I should be doing is, you know, laboring.
It was certainly enough that I’d be making jam; to turn it into a production that would take up my kitchen for three days is… well, I’m just not that kind of girl. I decided to go my own way with the idea, and report back to all of you how it went.
Let me tell you another thing about me and jam: I’m not a fan of pectin. Pectin forces you to use insane amounts of sugar to make your jams set; granted, I understand the need for it in jellies and preserves where you need something to help gel your product, but in things like jams and fruit butters, a long, slow simmer is totally where it’s at. It takes some time and love, but what you get is pure fruity deliciousness.
Strawberry, Black Pepper, and Mint Jam
10 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and cut in half (or quarters if large). Squish the fruits a little to ensure you’re getting a full 10 cups of fruit.
6 cups sugar
Juice of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3 tablespoons fresh mint, sliced thinly
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, add strawberries and sugar, and toss to coat. Turn the heat on to medium-high, and bring to a full, rolling boil, then turn down to a low simmer. Stir in the lemon juice.
This will simmer for quite some time–expect around 2 hours, depending on how juicy your berries were to begin with.
Make sure you skim off that foam, too. You don’t have to toss it–put it in a bowl and mop it up with a piece of bread. Seriously. You gotta have something to do while you’re hanging out waiting for your jam.
While that’s simmering away, make sure you’re giving it a good stir about every 10 minutes. You’ll be adding the pepper and mint for the last 5 minutes of cooking, when the jam is just about ready. The way to test when your jam is ready is to put a small plate in the freezer for 10 minutes. Pour a little syrup on the cold plate and run your finger through it. If the syrup gels and keeps a clear path of where you ran your finger, it’s ready. This would be a good time to throw in that pepper and mint, and let simmer for 5 more minutes.
I’m not going to go through the whole process of canning as I’ve yammered on enough for tonight; the fine folks at The University of Georgia have an excellent, thorough guide on how to prepare your jars, can, and process your jam. In fact, the whole National Center for Home Food Preservation site is worth bookmarking if you have any intentions of canning anything ever in your life.
Just as a note, this produced 3 1/2 pints.
I know you’re waiting to hear how it turned out. The mint, for some reason didn’t stand out that much at all. I got a hint of it, but that’s it. I definitely caught the pepper, and it leaves just a faint, pleasant heat that helps cut the sweetness of the jam. I would happily make this again, but possibly try more mint next time. Or, skip the mint, and add a good dose of balsamic vinegar. Wouldn’t that be interesting? Anyway, we’re not telling Mom about the experiment just yet, as she gets kind of weird about it when I do something new (and I get to prove her wrong 98% of the time). No matter, if no one likes it, it just means more for me.
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