My dream life requires me to have an open pantry lined with jars of glassy preserves and shelves of dill garlic pickles and canned red heirloom tomatoes. And last but not least; fresh honey.There is something about that vision of neatly stacked, colorful jars that makes me feel so orderly, so secure, so well taken care of. That same dream also has loaves of fresh, warm bread coming out of the oven and cookies on the counter. Did I mention the goats in the yard and the free range chickens? Lots of dogs and cats would be good and kids. I like kids. Oh, a horse, please, too. A few bah-bahs- a few moo-moos- by God, just get me the ranch.
Well, the baking I' m good at. No problems with yeast or sugar in this house. Except the eating of it, way too often. But a pressure cooker in this house? Science fiction to me. And a thermometer? I struggle with them every year when I make fudge. Usually it turns out great, but sometimes I get a batch of hard flint. And canning? I think the warnings of botulism always kept me from trying. Seriously. I don't like lighting matches either. My mom put the fear of God in me when it came to matches. Probably because she smoked when I was a child. So mom, I still can't light a match, thanks to you! I use one of those lighter things where you press a button. I can't even flick the Bic.
I've always wanted to preserve things but it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks. However there are plenty of recipes out there that don't require canning or boiling or thermometers. And given that strawberry season is ending I searched for my old recipe from Gourmet, so I could make this easy, no fail, strawberry jam. It is so full of strawberry goodness and has that hidden, can't put your finger on it, taste. And if I can make it, so can you! But you, whoever you are, probably make canned jams. In any case, you will still love this because it is a glorious, ambrosial jam. No canning, no thermometers, no set test needed. Just a clock, a pot, and some ripe strawberries!
Strawberry jam like this is special. Yes, you can tell a difference from Smuckers and I love Smuckers. But this is so fresh, and if you are like me you will leave more whole pieces in your self made jam. It is good over goat cheese or cream cheese. I do use it with peanut butter and I've used it as a filling in cakes. As an ice cream topping-you bet and for biscuits, well, that makes my mouth water. Let me know what you use it for. And by all means just make it. You won't be sorry. And if the thought of black pepper scares you, just leave it out. However, I'll tell you that everyone loves this, just the way it is. So get over your fear of jam making, because within 1/2 hour this glorious jam can be yours!
Strawberry Black Pepper Jam
2 c hulled, washed strawberries (some cut in quarters, halves and wholes)
1 1/2 c sugar
3 T balsamic vinegar
3 T water
1 t freshly ground black pepper.
Combine all ingredients in a deep pot. Bring slowly to a boil. (Really. Don't let this boil over or you won't think this is so easy.) After it comes to a rolling boil, let it boil for 15 minutes. (Here in the mile high I let it boil about 17 minutes and that is not scientific but the set point of jam is 225 so you can check it if you want. There is also a cool saucer test if you like, but I've never tried it.) Stir the mixture here and there. You will see scum. It is that foamy stuff. Under it is the glistening red juice. Skim the scum so your jam will be pretty.
After 15 minutes, remove from heat. Let cool. Jam will thicken on cooling and when placed in the fridge. After it has cooled, spoon into your nice clean jar. This keeps at least a month in the coolness of your fridge-but it won't last that long!
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