I’m sure that you’ll all be thrilled to hear that my jam making obsession continues apace. Indeed, at the rate I’m going, I foresee that every house in Bootle will contain a jar of my jam by the end of June. But hey, if you’ll allow me to blow my own trumpet for a moment (*toot-toot-toot*), this is bloody good jam. So good in fact that when a friend of mine tried it for the first time on Friday, he then proceeded to scoff half a jar of the stuff in a oner. I didn’t know whether to be proud, or fear that he was purposefully trying to give himself Type 2 diabetes.
I made this Strawberry and Black Pepper jam especially for the Northern Quarter Street Party which I attended last Friday in lieu of actually watching the Royal Wedding (hey, why watch the TV coverage when you can just read Twitter instead?) Here’s a pro tip for you readers – when doing a jam making session for the general public, don’t go out to the Darts the night before with your almost husband and get totally smashed on cider. Or, for that matter, wear a billowy full skirted dress which has a horrible habit of blowing up at the slightest puff of wind (apologies to anyone I accidentally flashed my knickers at by the way. Don’t worry, I’m embarassed for you too). I’d like to say that the idea for it came to me in a dream, but instead it was developed after I remembered how well strawberries, balsamic vinegar and black pepper go together, and that they had the potential to make a sensational jam.
Firstly, strawberries are macerated overnight in some lemon juice, sugar and balsamic vinegar until they turn nice and syrupy. Then, they’re cooked down with some black pepper to create something which will make your tongue tingle and your tastebuds pop with joy. The pepper should just add a little bit of a tingle to this jam – it shouldn’t overpower the strawberries, but instead just add another dimension to the sweetness of the final product. I’ve been taking to plopping tablespoons of this stuff on my grilled cheese sandwiches of late. And if you’re thinking that sounds a little out there, all I’d say in response to that is that don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Trust me on this one. I’m a jam maker.
STRAWBERRY AND BLACK PEPPER JAM (Makes roughly two jars)
Strawberry jam recipe adapted from Sophie Grigson
You will need:
- 500g strawberries
- 500g granulated sugar
- The juice and zest of half a lemon
- Five tablespoons of ground black pepper
- Four tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon of butter
- The day before you wish to make the jam, top and tail the strawberries, before chopping them in half. Cut off any soft spots or brown spots on them, and discard any berries with bruises, or are turning mushy.
- Place the strawberries into a large bowl with 250g of the sugar, two tablespoons of lemon juice and the balsamic vinegar. Turn carefully to mix and coat well, then cover in the fridge overnight to macerate.
- The next day, place a saucer into the fridge to chill – you’ll need this when you come to test the setting point of the jam. Pour the strawberries, their juice and any residual sugar juices into a very large pan or preserving pan, remembering that the mixture will rise as it boils. Add the remaining 250g of sugar, the rest of the lemon juice, the butter and the black pepper. Cook the mixture over a medium heat – ut should start to bubble and froth quite vigorously. Skim the froth off the top of the pan with a ladle, and be sure to keep stirring the jam vigorously so it doesn’t stick and burn.
- After around twenty five minutes or so, your jam should be starting to set. To test it, place a small amount on the cold plate and leave for thirty seconds. If it crinkles, then it’s done. If the mixture is looking too thin, cook it for another few minutes to obtain a thicker consistency.
- Pour the jam into sterilsed jars either via using the ladle, or via (my new favourite piece of equipment) a jam funnel, making sure that you wipe the excess from around the sides. Cover the top with surface of each jar with wax discs to create a tight seal, before screwing the top onto each jar.
- Sealed jam should keep for up to a year when stored in a cool and dry place. This jam goes very well on toast, when used in a victoria sponge, or just eaten out of the jar with a large spoon.