Over a month ago, two food-loving friends, Adrienne, Roxanne and I were discussing jam-making and canning and the fact that both Roxanne and I hadn’t done either. We both love jam and have an appreciation for homemade food, but were both intimidated by the process of making it at home, (and I was admittedly fearful of botulism).
Thankfully, Adrienne is a pro at canning and jam-making, and even made homemade jam for each of the guests that attended her wedding last year – about 150 people! When she offered to teach Roxanne and I the basics of both of these activities at her home, we jumped at the opportunity. Who can say no to wine, good company, a new/educational food experience, and lots of delicious leftovers? Not this guy.
So we met up this past Sunday at Adrienne’s in Tacoma, armed with lots of strawberries and vegan-friendly sugar to make Blue Chair Fruit’s Strawberry Jam with Aged Balsamic and Black Pepper (and one batch without pepper too). The combo of sweet strawberries (and the classic nostalgia of this jam flavor), richness of balsamic and the kick that black pepper promised all sounded like an excellent mix to me, and I was excited to experience the results.
Once we arrived, we got to work quickly! Adrienne had Roxanne and I hull four pounds of strawberries for the first batch. In case you’re wondering, that’s a lot of strawberries:
After hulling, we put them in a large pot and added sugar, balsamic, and lemon juice. And then we got to stirring. One thing I learned about jam-making? It’s a mega arm workout. I could stand to make more jam.
Keep stirring until juice began to form on the bottom, and so that the fruit doesn’t stick to the bottom. The pot is heated to a boil at this point, so be careful. Skim away any excess foam you see if you don’t want it in the jar (we did this step, but it’s optional).
The jam we made was pectin-free, so we had to test to make sure that it had “jelled” by placing some of the jam on a refrigerated plate. It did, woo! Then it was time to fill the jars. Here’s all the quarter-pint jars we started with:And then we poured jam in through the funnel, filling the jars most of the way. No photos of this as we were busy learning by doing. Next the jars were tightened and put into boiling water for processing. And then…
I had such a great time getting together with these ladies (who I sorely miss now that I’m a few cities away) and catching up, drinking lots of white zin and of course, dishing about how much we love food and all the summery things we were enjoying. If Adrienne does start teaching jamming classes soon and you’re in the South Sound, I highly recommend taking one. I’m much less intimidated by the whole process now. I’d love to get into canning right away but alas, this hobby will have to wait until I have more space.
One of the very best parts of this class happened the next morning: the tasting!
Needless to say, it’s delicious. The strawberry flavor was perfectly sweet – not too sweet like I feel most jams are, and it was enhanced and brightened by fresh lemon juice. The balsamic added a depth of flavor to this combo that was effortlessly natural. Balsamic isn’t something I think of when I think of sweet things, but I’ve always been impressed by how well it melds with them. That was definitely the case here. I couldn’t taste the pepper in the first jar we’re on, but I think we erred on the side of not pepper-crazy. If I were to do this again, I’d be more liberal with the grinder because I love some spice.
And here’s past Sunday’s breakfast: Ezekiel bread toasted, and slathered with this perfect homemade spread. We’re slowly enjoying it, and I’m also currently thinking up other ways to utilize it. If you have ideas/recipes/suggestions, please mention them in the comments.
For the teacher’s perspective of this class, the full recipe and much more precise directions, check out Adrienne’s excellent post.