Monday, April 19, 2010

Jammin' Jam: Strawberry, Black Pepper and Fresh Mint

I can honestly say that I have never bitten into a lovely, warm scone topped with sweet, plump jammy fruit and thought to myself, "What this is missing is some ground black pepper." So, when I was reading through Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber ( a most beloved maker of jams and jellies, second only in my mind to June Taylor) and read about a jam made with strawberries, fresh mint and black pepper - well, I had to give it some thought.
Jammin' Jam of Strawberry, Black Pepper & Fresh Mint

Ladies and Gents, it works! Not only does it work, it has a remarkable balance that keeps the sugar (that can sometimes be too much, especially for non-jam loving folks), in the background. Suddenly, the fruit is first, then a hint of mint rises up and never do you think, "oh wow, pepper in my mouth." It just seems to make the sugar be a little more generous with the spotlight.

This month's Tigress Can Jam ingredient was any kind of herb that we fancied using. I actually still have a nice Mint plant doing well even after the wet winter here, so I definitely wanted to use that. Then, the Farmer's Market starting showing off the first of the season's strawberries for us fortunate Californians, so it was easy to see where my combo was headed. I, frankly, would never have thought to use pepper on my own - maybe balsamic vinegar or vanilla or perhaps a tea blend, but never ground pepper.
Since the strawberries are also a little tangy this early in the year, the pepper really played nicely with the acids and herbal notes. The recipe is a breeze, although in my adaptation I have cut a whole day off of the macerating (and I still do it overnight once).
Christine just loves to take a few days to do her amazing creations, and I didn't have the patience to be so French. Until I have the pleasure of tasting her jar of this bliss, I'll be satisfied with loving mine. I highly recommend giving this a whirl; It's easy and has a big wow factor. RECIPE: Strawberry, Ground Pepper & Fresh Mint Jam
(adapted from Mes Confitures)

2lbs Strawberries, (weigh after washed, hulled & sliced in half
1 1/2 lb sugar
(this is about 3 1/2 cups)
1 lemon zest and juice

8 fresh mint leaves, hand shredded
8 black peppercorns, freshly ground

In a ceramic bowl, add the strawberries, lemon zest and juice, and sugar. Fold together just to mix and cover with parchment paper and let macerate overnight in the refrigerator.

Next day, bring the preparation to a simmer in a preserving pot or large saucepan. Stir gently to dissolve all sugar for about 5 minutes.
Strain through a sieve and hold the fruit separately while you return the syrup to the pan and bring to a boil, cooking on high til concentrated at 221F on a candy thermometer.

Add the fruit back into the pot with the mint and ground pepper. Return to boil for about 5 minutes, stirring gently. Check the set.

Fill sterilized jars, immediately, and close with lids. Boil in a hot waterbath, covering the jars by 1 inch of water, for 10 minutes. See "How To Preserve" for any questions about water baths.
Remove carefully to a rack to cool and seal. Do not move jars for 24 hours to secure the seal.

*Optionally, you can fill jars and keep in refrigerator for 3 weeks without a water bath*
Getcha Pepper on, peeps!


oneordinaryday said...

Oh, I am so intrigued by this. As soon as I saw the title of your post I knew I had to try it. I can't wait for strawberries to ripen!!!

Anonymous said...

Your photos are beautiful and the jam looks delicious! I'm going to try making it. Where did you purchase the jars?

Chocolate Shavings said...

The ground pepper in this jam must make it that much more special!

Carolyn Jung said...

You'll laugh, but you know what I'm craving when I see that lovely jam of yours? Thumbprint cookies! I think that jam with the sweet fruit and bite of pepper would be spectacular to fill those buttery little cookies with.

leena! said...

Cathy, this looks and sounds wonderful. I love you description of how the black pepper and mint actually bring the flavor of the strawberry out more! I made a strawberry-rhubarb rosemary jam, and I have to agree that herbs have that magic quality with fruit.

And if you're looking for a quicker strawberry jam recipe (why do all them take one or more days to make?!), check out Well Preserved by Mary Anne Dragan. I found a really nice one that only takes 30 minutes!

Caroline said...

I love to make jam too, and I will give this a try! Thanx for posting.


I'm so glad I found you! I'd read about strawberries w/black pepper years ago and haven't been able to find anything since - will be making this for sure!

Jessy said...

Wow! I would have never thought...I'm afraid I would have been too nervous trying this out myself...thanks for being the guinea pig...LOL

Seriously, this looks amazing. I'm going to try it with our strawberries this summer. Thanks!

showfoodchef said...

One Ordinary Day - Oh, I hope you try it, and let me know.

Anonymous- Love for you to try it. The larger jars are Kerr and I ordered them online with free delivery to my nearest TruValue Store. The small jar is a flea market find just for serving.

Chocolate Shavings- Yes, the pepper seemed odd, but really took it to a different level.

Carolyn Jung - Thumb print cookies are an EXCELLENT idea, good thinking.

showfoodchef said...

Leena- thanx for the compliments, and I'll look that book up for sure. Mmm, rosemary.

Caroline - Thx for stopping by and let me know, I hope you make it.

SmithBites - So glad you found me, and let me know how yours turns out to you.

Jessy - I know, right? It did sound weird, but too interesting not to try. Hope you'll give it a go.

Anonymous said...

oh my--this looks unimaginably delicious. i read ferber's book every now and then as a novel (and for the pictures), but still haven't made anything from it. i'm just about ready to do something with strawberries for the season and this just might be it. thanks for the inspiration!

Caroline said...

I tried your recipe. Omitted the lemon zest; I don't like it in jam. Just put 2 leaves of mint in every jar. Black pepper in strawberry jam! Yum. (Don't use ground pepper; grind it yourself, I think it tastes much better) I like my stawberry balsamic jam very much; this jam comes second. Thank you for the recipe, I will be making it for years now.

showfoodchef said...

cosmic cowgirl - I can't wait to hear how yours turns out.

Caroline - I am so excited to hear that you made it, too! Big yes on the fresh ground, absolutely. I love my Strawberry with Vanilla tea as my first and this is my second, too. So happy to hear you tried it.

RJ Flamingo said...

Nice! Pepper would never have occurred to me, either, but now I'm intrigued! I did strawberries & mint, too, but the pepper just adds another dimension!

Shae said...

I've been working on strawberry jam all week (including one with black pepper that I adore), and plan to get another flat at the farmer's market tomorrow. I'm definitely going to add this of my list of things to make this weekend. So many of my favorite flavors mixed into it. Thanks for posting.

kaela said...

That first photo is spectacular - makes me long for strawberry season!

I agree with the black pepper magic; I make a strawberry, balsamic and black pepper jam that I love. I haven't tried the mint preserve, though; I'll have to give it a go.

Anonymous said...

I've just recently made scones for the first time ever and topped them with homemade mixed berries jam which was an awesome combination. Your strawberry hot pepper & mint jam sounds fantastic, too. This is definitely a recipe I want to try once strawberries are in season here. Thanks for posting this!

Khali//Bandit and the Scene Stealers said...

I am nervous to jam but you make it look so good I feel like I should just do it! Thanks for the constant inspiration.

innBrooklyn said...

This sounds like a great combination! I love how strawberries play well with unexpected partners - like balsamic and pepper! I just planted 18 strawberry plants and if I don't kill them I'll be able to try this w/ my own strawberries as well as my own mint!

Anonymous said...

Hey Cathy. Just stumbled upon your blog whilst looking for a recipe for strawberry & mint jam. The writing is great & I look forward to digesting the pages.
I've literally just made a batch of this (actually it made 9 jars as I doubled up!)and my kitchen smells gooooddddd.
The first (warm unset...) mouthful was ace.

Fingers crossed!

Anonymous said...

The jam sounds amazing Im just a little confused as to how the jam will set without and certo. I've prepped all my berries but just added a fraction of the sugar called for and just want to make sure before I go ahead with the cooking part that mine will still set. Thanks so much

showfoodchef said...

Anonymous: Thanks for stopping by. Before anything else, please be cautious with cutting the sugar if you plan to "can" this because sugar is part of the preserving chemistry. I don't usually use any form of certo or pectin (unless I make it, etc.) because the jam will set at about 122F very well. Hope this helps. I am also getting ready to do more of this tomorrow :D Nice cooking with you.

Anonymous said...

Hey Cathy, thanks for your response, but now I'm uber stressed. The jam is for our wedding favors, and we bought 10lbs of field berries last weekend. So far we've just halved them and covered them with four cups of cane sugar and the called for lemon amount. So am I up the creek now or should I buy some certo or pectin? We were hoping to avoid the thicekners because we have a vegan comming to the wedding but if it means saving the recipe than so be it. Please help :(

showfoodchef said...

Hey Anonymous: Email me ok?

AND: You're absolutely fine for the wedding favors (I made these for wedding favors last year, also :D ). But you need more sugar (which is fine for the vegans) and do not need the pectin or certo. IF you haven't fixed yr recipe yet. Email me for further chatting, ok?

Rebecca said...

This looks amazing! My mint is going off and I was just looking around for fun recipes to try with it. I'm going to get some strawberries and give it a go. How many jars will one batch make? And will it be a problem if I omit the lemon? Thanks for sharing such a yummy sounding recipe!

Melissa said...

I just bought a flat of strawberries from the local farmers market and I'm excited to start making some jam! I was searching for some different strawberry jam recipes and I came across Christine Ferbers Strawberry mint black pepper jam several times and was drawn to your blog. I love making unique foods and I can't wait to get started on this! I've only made jam with pectin so I'm also curious to see how this turns out! I was wondering though if it would be fine to use dried mint from my plants last year. And how much I should add? I'm wondering if the dried mint would change the taste or texture of the jam. I can't wait to get started! Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

I tried this recipe, but used Juneberries instead of Strawberries...I tasted what was on the spoon when I tested it for readiness.. I can not wait for tomorrow, I am going to have some on my english muffin.

Ms.Catalano said...

Just made this jam and if I'm not careful it may be all gone by the time it cools down. What great layers of flavors. BTW, I added some grated ginger to the lemon zest…OMG!!!

Rachele said...

How much pepper does this translate to? I wonder if I should empty my pepper mill, load the right number of peppercorns, and grind away?