Strawberry jam with balsamic and black pepper

Strawberry jam

Can I make a shocking confession? I don’t love strawberries. I mean, I don’t hate them (it’s not like they’re oranges or anything); I like them fine. I just don’t swoon for them in the way that so many others do, particularly at this time of year.

But I have gained a newfound respect for them after a recent visit to a strawberry farm down in Watsonville. The good folks over at Foodista let me write it up for them, so go check it out. 

Ever since that visit, I’ve had berries on the brain. I can’t ignore them as I walk through the markets. For someone who doesn’t love them, I sure seem to have some kind of crush on them. If I were a schoolgirl, I’d be writing “Strawberries” over and over again in my Trapper Keeper. (Do kids still have Trapper Keepers? Am I dating myself? Though you have to admit, iPads do sort of look like a Star Trek — TNG, not original — interpretation of Trapper Keepers.)

Consequently, we’ve had a lot of strawberries in the house of late. Mostly, they find their way into our morning yogurt, perhaps alongside some banana and certainly with homemade granola, staving off scurvy for yet another day. But there isn’t enough yogurt in the world to complement the bounty of strawberriness upon us. And so, as is my wont, I’ve been jamming.

But you know me, right? I’m just not content to let well enough be. There’s no shortage of people in the world, or even in this condo, who are happy to eat just plain strawberry jam, but I’m not one of them. No, I just have to screw with it, just a little.

I already planned to add a little black pepper, as I adore the combination of berries and pepper, but then a Twitter friend recommended balsamic, and that appealed to my sensibilities very much indeed. And so a plan was hatched.

With one batch, I kept it just plain for the first half, then added some balsamic and pepper for the latter half, so I could compare apples to apples … er, strawberries to strawberries. The regular strawberry jam was good: Bright, undeniably strawberry. But the adulterated batch was strawberry plus. Still strawberry, no mistaking, but with lingering and haunting notes that gave it a layer of sophistication.

Perhaps I can grow to love strawberries after all.

Strawberry jam with balsamic and black pepper

1400 g ripe strawberries, chopped
1400 g granulated sugar
1 lemon, cut into thick slices
1 packet pectin
1 Tbsp butter, to reduce foaming
1 tsp balsamic (the real deal, please)
several cracks fresh black pepper

In a large, heavy, nonreactive Dutch oven or stockpot, combine the berries, lemon and sugar, and let stand to macerate at least 20 minutes. (Due to an unfortunate lack of pre-planning, I ended up starting this process the day before, leaving the mixture in the fridge until the next morning when I could procure lids for my jars. The longer you leave the fruit to macerate, the more liquid it will give off, making for a thinner jam.)

Place the pot over medium-high heat. Add the butter and pectin. Bring to a full boil, skimming away any foam that forms. Stir frequently, and use a quick-read thermometer to track the temperature until it reaches a consistent reading of 220ºF. Remove the slices of lemon, and add the balsamic and pepper, and stir to mix thoroughly.

Can (water-bath is fine) or freeze as desired. Will keep in the fridge for weeks if not months.


I would probably not turn away a piece of Matt’s strawberry shortcake

Susan’s got the full lowdown on how to select, store and serve everyone (else’s) favorite springtime fruit.

Don’t forget to read my piece on Foodista. I said go!

  • Black pepper, balsamic, and jam are three ingredients I like in cocktails. Perhaps you’ve created a new drink mix!

  • Now you're talking! Hmm … what think — cachaca and Cointreau perhaps?

  • I was thinking a white rum too. Well you’ve already got a sweetening agent in the jam so you may try it first with just a sour agent like some lemon juice.

  • Strawberries and pepper…I have to admit I’ve never tried them together before but I’m intrigued. The jam sounds pretty fab.

  • amy

    I feel like a celebrity. 🙂
    I’m glad you liked the combo. We’ll be making more soon.
    Our two other favorites were apricot amaretto and our home brandied cherries.

  • M.

    interesting combination of ingredients….exactly something I would love to try 🙂

  • This is such a great jam idea, maybe I have to make a trip to the shops today after all…

  • I foresee yet another massive canning session in your future, heh heh 😉

  • Oh you can count on it. This year is gonna be BIG.

  • Mm, apricot amaretto makes a lot of sense. Last year I made apricot jam and used the noyaux from some of the pits, which lends a gentle almond flavor. So good! This year I'm poised for a major apricot event.

  • I hear what you’re saying about strawberries (though I think you’re totally off about oranges!) The jam with pepper sounds exciting! How long can it keep?

  • Can I come over the next time you preserve?? I need to learn from the master!

  • You bet! I'll be at it quite a lot this year.

  • In the fridge, it'll stay for a couple months, unless somehow mold gets to it. Canned, it'll keep more or less indefinitely, but I generally use canned preserves within the year.

  • This jam sounds amazing. I just made my first at home canning butters this winter to give as gifts for the holidays. I loved the pumpkin butter I made. I have been nervous to actually try to make a jam and you have inspired me!

  • I adore pumpkin butter, and we did that a couple years ago as well — but be forewarned that the FDA does not consider pumpkin butter safe for canning by any method. It's too viscous, and there's a risk of botulin developing in air bubbles inside the butter. So keep making it, but freeze it.
    I think you'll find making jam surprisingly easy. It's very forgiving and flexible.

  • So freeze and thaw in bathes instead of canning then? Where would I go to get a list of what not to can?

  • My bad — USDA, not FDA. They have a comprehensive resource online at (it's also in print form as a book, which I have on the shelf.) In their section on pumpkins and winter squash (, to be canned cubed, it specifically calls out, "Caution: Do not mash or puree" 
    Hope this helps. I made the mistake of canning pumpkin butter, and no one died, but better safe than sorry!

  • Thanks for the info…yikes I can’t believe my canning book (that included the pumpkin butter recipe) did not mention this!

  • Wow, which book was that?

  • I bet you are wishy-washy about strawberries because finding great ones are rare these days. Seems like too many people pick them under-ripe or they grow varieties that get too big and flavorless. Ah, but when you find a perfect, red, ripe, juicy strawberry, I bet you will be a convert, indeed. 😉

  • Dude, I totally had a trapper keeper. And I’m on the fence about strawberries as well. Although your jam looks delightful. Just got a slew of ’em in our CSA box today, maybe I can make a little batch o’ jam.

  • Perfect combination. Yum!!!
    Lovely writing, too. Mmmm… Mmmm…

  • You should totally make a bunch of these and sell it at the Underground Market! I’d be there to buy a few jars!

  • And with apricot season upon us as well … I better get busy!

  • I love the addition of black pepper to the jam. Fantastic idea!

  • I’m not a huge fan of strawberries. I feel like I have to pretend to be, because, well, because everyone else and their brother seem to be strawberry fanatics. The right answer to the “Don’t you just love strawberries?” question is supposed to be YES. For me, not so much.
    This jam on the other hand looks like something I could do. Of course, if you use balsamic vinegar in a recipe, I’m all for it.