An easy no pectin strawberry jam, with a bit of balsamic vinegar and black pepper, to heighten the strawberry flavour. A beautiful ruby-red and flavourful small-batch jam. No canning needed!
This is my favourite strawberry jam. It is a no-pectin jam, so I can make up a batch anytime. I love the looser texture of a no-pectin jam. The added balsamic heightens the strawberry flavour and lends a deep, ruby-red colour to the jam. The few grinds of black pepper are another flavour note that contrasts the sweet berry flavours.
If you are new to jam making, you may be shocked by the amount of sugar in a jam. Some people are tempted to reduce it, but it is not advisable. Sugar in jam is what allows it to "set", so reducing it may make it so it will never set. Secondly, sugar in jam is a preservative, so the jam will keep well in the fridge. Finally, the sugar in jam is a sweetener. Jam is sweet. It's also a condiment that is consumed in very small quantities.
For my batch of jam, I started with 500g of prepared strawberries (or a little over 1 lb.), as I was using up the end of a quart of strawberries I had picked. (The recipe below starts with 1lb. of fresh strawberries, as that is how they are often available in stores). I weighed out an equal amount of white sugar, which is added to the strawberries in a large pot, together with the lemon juice.
You want to make sure you use a large pot, as the mixture will bubble up considerably when it boils. I'm using a Dutch oven-sized pot here.
Once the mixture boils, I like to break down the strawberries a bit with a potato masher. After that, let the jam boil until it reaches 221F on a candy thermometer or it passes the Cold Plate Test (details on that in the Recipe Card instructions below). Once ready, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar and add a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper.
This is my usual small batch jam. As this jam has no added pectin, it's a loose-set jam. It will make 2 or 3 small jars that can be refrigerated or frozen.
The jam will produce some foam as it boils. You can spoon it off and discard, if you like, but I don't usually bother, as much of it disappears by the time the jam is done. Adding a small pat of butter to the mix at the start will prevent foaming, as well, if you want to add it.
This jam will keep in the fridge for several months. I recommend using a candy thermometer if you have one, but if you don't, just use the cold-plate test detailed below to check for set.
Help! My jam didn't set!
First, remember that as this is a no-pectin added jam, it will never be firm like a pectin-added jam. That said, it shouldn't be "runny". I call it loose-set. If you think your jam is too runny, you can do a couple of things. You can just use it as a strawberry sauce, as a delicious and a great topping for your favourite vanilla ice cream or waffles. Alternately, you can dump it back into a saucepan and re-boil it. Once it comes to the boil, boil an additional 3-5 minutes. Return to a jar, cool and refrigerate. In most cases, the set will have improved.
Strawberry, Balsamic and Black Pepper Jam
- 1 lb. fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and halved or quartered, if large
- 2 cups granulated white sugar, approximately *see Notes below
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 3-4 grinds freshly ground black pepper
- If you will be testing your jam with the Cold Plate Test (see below), place a small plate in the freezer to cool before starting your jam.
- Prepare the strawberries by hulling, washing, draining well, then halving or quartering, if large. Weigh the prepared strawberries, recording the weight, then place in a large, non-reactive saucepan (not aluminum). *Mixture will bubble up considerably when it boils, to be sure to use a large pot).
- Weigh out an equal amount of white sugar as the weight of the prepared strawberries. (So if your prepared strawberries weighed 15 oz., weigh out 15 oz of white sugar. Add the sugar to saucepan with the strawberries. Add the juice of 1/2 lemon and stir to combine.
- Turn heat to medium under the saucepan and heat the mixture, stirring regularly until the sugar dissolves. Once mixture comes to a boil, increase the heat to medium-high. Use a potato masher to break down the strawberries a bit. Continue to boil the mixture, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches 221F on a candy thermometer or the mixture passes the Cold Plate Test (see below). This usually takes about 10 minutes. *Mixture will produce some foam as it cooks. You can spoon off and discard if you like. I don't usually bother myself.
- Remove pot from heat. Add balsamic vinegar and black pepper and stir to combine. Carefully spoon jam into a clean jar (careful, it's hot!!). Fill to within 1/2-inch of the top. Place lid on jar and invert jar on a tea towel and allow to cool completely at room temperature. Place jar in the refrigerator and keep refrigerated at all times. Will keep in the fridge for 4-6 months. (Note that to store this jam at room temperature, you would need to follow safe canning procedures with sterilizing jars and lids and then processing the filled jars of jam in a hot water bath. Refer to a reputable canning source for instructions on how to do that.)
- *Testing for set with a cold plate: Set a dinner plate into your freezer before you start to make your jam. As your jam is coming close to setting, remove the plate from the freezer and drop a small puddle of hot jam onto the plate. Let stand a few second, then run your finger through the middle of the puddle. If the puddle runs back together, it is not set and you need to cook longer. If the path remains and doesn’t run back together and the edges of the line are raised and/or wrinkled your jam is done.
Nutritional information provided for general guidance only and should not be relied upon to make personal health decisions.