There is no better time of the year to make jams, jellies, and preserves than summer, when so much of nature’s bounty is in full ripeness. A prevailing myth surrounding preserves is that only fruit that is in some stage beyond eating should be used to make a jam, etc. This is insanity. If you wouldn’t eat an under or over ripened fruit, why the hell would you use it in a recipe at all?? The best jam is made with the best fruit, end of discussion.
An added benefit to jammin’ during the summer is all of the Christmas gifts you can make with the finished product! I love giving out assortments of preserves for Christmas, especially since all of that wonderful fruit is usually gone until next year.
The preserve we’re making today (techincally a preserve by leaving the fruit whole, you can easily make this a jam by chopping up the fruit before getting started) is pretty standard, but with a small twist. Everyone knows strawberry jam, and almost everyone loves it and since strawberries have started to come into season here in Chicago, I thought it would be a great time to hit the local farmer’s market and whip up this week’s post. The twist is that we’re adding black pepper to our strawberry jam. Black pepper is a surprising but really nice flavor pairing to strawberry, because the heat and spice of the pepper compliments the bright sweetness of the berry. This is especially true in the jam, since sweetness is inevitably heightened.
If you’re not as seasoned at making preserves as you’d like to be, I recommend checking out my post on the topic. Lots of good info there one how jams and jellies are made, and best practices for making your own.
I’m using a variety of strawberry known as fraise de bois (wild strawberry). They are smaller than your standard grocery store strawberry, with a deep red color and more intense flavor. If you can’t find these in your neck of the woods, that’s ok, regular strawberries will do. You can of course omit the black pepper in the recipe if you prefer, and get a perfectly nice strawberry jam.
This recipe calls for 900g of fruit, which equates to about 2 quarts of fresh berries, and will give you five, 8oz jars.
Just like with my other jam recipes, we’re going to use pectin. Although all fruit naturally has pectin in it, I use a commercial pectin too, which speeds the cooking process and preserves the brightness and natural acidity of the fruit.
Monitoring the cooking temperature of the preserve is the first benchmark of knowing when it is ready to set. The preserve must reach a minimum temperature of around 221F/105C to have the potential to set as a gel. While it’s easy enough to use a thermometer to check the temp., a preserve at 221F/105C doesn’t always indicate a finished product, so it’s always a good idea to perform a “set test.” A set test uses a small sample of the cooked preserve and rapidly cools it to see if it has the properties of a finished gel.
I set test my jam by freezing a sheet pan (or plate) before getting started with the recipe. When I think I have the jam at a finished stage, I take a small amount of the jam and place it on the frozen pan. I let it cool in the refrigerator for 3-5min. then press the edge of the jam with my finger. If the jam wrinkles, it will set. If the jam seems thin like syrup or doesn’t wrinkle, then the mixture needs more cooking
I like to use Ball jars for canning and jamming, and you can find just about any size you might want.
strawberry black pepper preserves
900g strawberries fraise du bois
4g vanilla paste or 1 vanilla bean
580g sugar A
220g sugar B
45g apple pectin
30g lemon juice
3g black pepper freshly ground
Remove the leaves and stems from the strawberries. If you’re using a larger strawberries, quarter them.
Combine the strawberries, vanilla paste, and sugar A. Let the mixture macerate for 1 hour. The sugar on the berries will pull moisture from them, giving you cooking liquid to use in the jam process.
After 1 hour, add the water and place the mixture in a sauce pot.
Combine sugar B and apple pectin and whisk it into the fruit mixture.
Place the mixture over low heat, stirring often, until the sugar has dissolved.
Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. Boil until the mixture reaches 221F/105C or the jam sets in a set test.
Add the lemon juice and black pepper and mix until homogenized.
Pour the hot jam into the cleaned and dry jars, almost to the rim. Seal them with the lid immediately.
Place all of the filled jars into a stockpot lined with a tea towel to keep direct heat off of the jars. Fill the stockpot with water until it comes about halfway up the jars. Bring the water to a simmer and place a lid on the stockpot. Simmer the jars for about 10min, then remove them from the heat and let them cool.
The best part about this preserve/jam is that you can enjoy it tomorrow or during the first snow of the year!