Preserved: Strawberry Balsamic Black Pepper Jam
Strawberry jam is usually sunny and simple, but it can also be dark and sophisticated. This version is spiced up with black pepper and aged balsamic vinegar. Pair it with ripe, creamy cheeses or dollop it on top of toast points with chicken liver mousse.
Strawberry jam is normally unfussy, kid-friendly food. It conjures up notions of thumbprint peanut butter cookies and cream cheese and white bread sandwiches. On the jam sophistication scale, it's about half a step up from grape jelly. But it doesn't have to be. With the right ingredients, strawberry jam can be as grown up as a dirty martini.
For this recipe, top quality ingredients are essential. Use the best farm stand strawberries you can find, grind your own black peppercorns, and bust out that expensive balsamic vinegar you hoard away for special occasions (you only need a few tablespoons).
While I normally advocate Pomona's Universal Pectin because it allows you to use far less sugar, for this recipe I actually like to use regular powered fruit pectin such as Ball. I think the spicy pepper warrants a bit more sugar, and this is not a jam you want to consume in huge amounts all at once. (Rather than slathering it on toast so it goops off the edges, try spreading a thin layer on a ham and cheese sandwich.)
This recipe makes a whooping eight jars of jam. It will keep for up to a year on the shelf. A jar and a wedge of cheese is one of my favorite hostess gifts.
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About the Author: Lucy Baker is a food writer and the author of The Boozy Baker: 75 Recipes for Spirited Sweets. She is currently at work on a second book about homemade food gifts. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and dachshund.