Category Archives: Jam

Strawberry and Black Pepper Jam

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

Make It!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
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Blackberry and Spiced Rum Jam

I’ve developed quite the thing for jam of late – a new found fetish which has caused Mr. Cay to look at me oddly and ask me in worried tones about whether I’m going to run away and join the W.I. I place the blame for my new hobby firmly on my attendance of the World Marmalade Awards earlier this year. Who knew that standing around in a muddy field on a cold February day discussing pectin levels could be so stimulating? Since then, I’ve felt compelled to jam every soft fruit I can get my hands on. I even had a heated debate with my best friend in London this weekend about whether you can jam tomatoes or not. I say yes, and as I’m the only jam ‘expert’ I know (OK, granted, I use that term loosely) I think that I win that particular argument.

My working knowledge of maceration is handy considering that I’ve been asked to do a jam making workshop at the Northern Quarter Street Party this coming Friday. Whilst other, less sensible people than I will be standing around waving flags and celebrating the holy matrimony of two chinless wonders, I’ll be showing the fair people of Manchester how to create a kick ass conserve. I will also be wearing a very billowy dress and, hopefully, a hat with a big bow on it. Hell, if that’s not enough reason to see me make a fool out of myself in public, then I don’t know what is.

One of the jams I’m hopefully going to demonstrating is this fine fella, my Blackberry and Spiced Rum jam. Blackberries and spiced rum might sound like a bit of an interesting concoction, but the two tastes actually complement each other surprisingly well. Full of vanilla notes, a snifter of nutmeg and a slight kick of cinnamon, this is the kind of jam that evokes the first tastes of Spring, and celebrates those wonderful fat juicy blackberries you start to find on hedgerows across the countryside at this time of year.  This is the kind of jam which demands to be stirred into porridge, smothered liberally on toast (I’ve found that it goes particularly well with rye bread), or just eaten straight out of the jar in huge heaped spoonfuls.

I’ve found that when cooking this jam, it’s best not to put the alcohol directly into the mixture, as this can cause the pectin to break down and stop your jam from setting. Instead, add a tablespoon of the spirit to the bottom of each jar. Then, when you’ve poured the jam into the sterilised jars, tip them upside down, so that the spirit diffuses through the mixture. What you’ll be left with is a deliciously boozy, fruity treat -and is just the thing to put a Spring in your step when you spread it onto your crumpets in the morning.

BLACKBERRY AND SPICED RUM JAM (Makes approx two jars of jam)

You will need:

  • 500g blackberries
  • 500g granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon spiced rum (I used Morgan’s Spiced)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter (this helps to produce a clearer jam, and prevents it from foaming up too much)

Make It!

  1. Wash your blackberries, and toss them into a wide shallow pan (a stock pot or preserving pan works quite well here). Mash them down with a wooden spoon, add the lemon juice and sugar, and leave them to macerate (i.e. break down and start to turn syrupy) for ten – fifteen minutes. Whilst this is going on, put a small saucer in your fridge – you’ll need it later.
  2. Once the berries have macerated and turned nice and squidgey, add the lemon juice, vanilla extract and butter.  Cook the mixture over a medium heat – it should  start to bubble and froth quite vigorously at this point, Skim the froth off the top of the pan, and be sure to keep stirring the mixture vigorously so it doesn’t stick and burn.
  3. 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.
  4. Once your jam is done, add a tablespoon of spiced rum to a hot, sterilsed jam jar. (To sterilise the jars, bake them on the lowest setting of your oven for fifteen minutes or so). Ladle the hot jam into each jar, wipe the excess from around the sides. Cover the top surface of the jam in each jar with waxed paper discs that have been cut to size – they should cover the entire surface of the jam (you can buy these from somewhere like Lakeland). Press the wax disc down to create a tight seal. Screw the top onto each jar, and then tip them upside down so that the rum diffuses through the mixture.
  5. Sealed jam should keep for up to a year when stored in a cool and dry place. When you fancy tucking into your bounty, this goes especially well with toast, yoghurt and creamy porridge.
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