strawberry jam with balsamic and black pepper

I bought two jars of jam on Monday at our local farmers market. I had no intention of buying jam. I bought those two jars because I’m a sucker.

After taking my daughter to gymnastics that afternoon, we stopped by the farmers market to browse the selection. It’s a small market, with only ten or so booths set up in the peak months, now through the summer. In the winter months, there might be just a couple of farmers selling their produce. On Monday, though, there were some good things available. Several farmers had fresh tomatoes, greens of some sort or another, lots of zucchini and yellow crookneck squash, and cucumbers. A couple of booths had pints of fresh plump blueberries, and many of those pints were filled with berries almost the size of a dime. One local goat farmer had raw goat’s milk, goat’s milk ricotta, and fresh eggs.

As we were leaving, arms loaded with bags of summer squash and blueberries and a token batch of goat’s milk ricotta, Maddie dragged me over to a table filled with jam jars of all sizes. The jam maker was a tall Australian man wearing a cowboy hat. His accent was lovely. He wasn’t so bad looking, either.

I explained to the jam maker that I had just made a batch of strawberry jam, just two days before. And no, I really didn’t need any jam, but his certainly looked good. He asked my daughter if she’d like a taste. This was a sneaky move, of course. What eight-year old turns down free samples of sweet jam and apple butter? Not mine.

While winning over my daughter, one lick at a time, the jam maker told me about the flavors he’d created and about his upcoming ideas for new batches. Before I knew it, the Australian had won me over. His passion for jam-making and combining new flavors, his sweetness to my child, and yes, his accent — all of this resulted in me coming home with $10 less in my pocket and two jars of jam we didn’t need.

So, about that jam I made. The Australian’s strawberry jam was good, but mine takes the cake.

After going strawberry picking with the kids on Saturday, we had an abundance of strawberries. Seven pounds of strawberries, in fact. Making preserves of some type seemed the only rational thing to do with that many berries. Other than eating them by the handful, that is.

Jennie is always a reliable recipe source – not to mention friend – and she didn’t fail me here. I used her strawberry jam recipe as a model, mostly because I loved her idea of using the microwave to cut the preparation time. Genius, I tell you. I can hardly wait until her cookbook comes out.

Yield: approx 3 cups

Cook Time: 8 minutes

Strawberry Jam with Balsamic and Black Pepper

This recipe is adapted from Jennifer Perillo’s Strawberry Jam recipe. I used regular pectin since that’s what I had on hand, and I added some balsamic vinegar and black pepper.

Strawberries plus balsamic vinegar plus black pepper might just well be the new bacon.

Ingredients:

2 quarts strawberries (approximately 8 cups), washed and hulled
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar
4 grinds fresh black pepper
2 teaspoons pectin

Directions:

In a large glass microwave-safe bowl, mash strawberries using a potato masher or fork to desired consistency. Microwave on high in the microwave, covered, until strawberries are almost boiling, about 5 minutes.

In the meantime, whisk together sugar and pectin. Stir sugar and pectin mixture into berries. Add balsamic vinegar and black pepper, stir to combine. Cook on high for 3 more minutes, taking care to cover the bowl well with a paper towel (very important!), until thick and bubbly.

Transfer to a container, let cool, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

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20 Responses to “the box on the dining room table”

  1. 1
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    Renee - Kudos Kitchen — June 8, 2014 @ 8:06 pm

    Such a sweet story about your father. My heart goes out to you.
    This ice cream? Divine!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 9th, 2014 @ 6:46 pm

      Oh, thank you, Renee.

  2. 2
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    MJ, this is a beautiful post. I can see how there’s comfort in having your dad “around’. I am sure he is smiling down at you all and I know that he will love Yellowstone XO

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 9th, 2014 @ 6:46 pm

      I think this Yellowstone trip will be great for all of us. It just feels right to take Dad with us. And thank you, Mardi.

  3. 3
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    Gail — June 8, 2014 @ 10:06 pm

    You outdo yourself, every single time.
    And I go through more kleenex, every single time.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 9th, 2014 @ 6:47 pm

      I should post a warning label, right? (Thank you, Gail!)

  4. 4
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    Kathryn — June 9, 2014 @ 4:28 am

    Such a beautiful and touching post.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 9th, 2014 @ 6:47 pm

      Thank you so much, Kathryn.

  5. 5
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    Colleen — June 9, 2014 @ 11:14 am

    Such a beautiful post!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 9th, 2014 @ 6:47 pm

      Thank you, Colleen.

  6. 6
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    jacquie — June 9, 2014 @ 12:34 pm

    beautiful post. after i have lost a significant being in my life, for some reason i always feel more settled when a piece of them come back home to me. I’m so glad your dad is going to Yellowstone with all of you. I’m sure he will let you know where he wants to rest. take care.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 9th, 2014 @ 6:48 pm

      I believe you’re right, Jacquie. I think I’ll know the place when I’m there. It will feel right.

  7. 7
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    Jennifer Annan House — June 9, 2014 @ 1:10 pm

    Another wonderful post I think your posts about your dad help all of us who are grieving for someone. And, love the picture, and news of your upcoming Yellowstone trip. It will be a wonderful time for all of your family.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 9th, 2014 @ 6:48 pm

      Thank you so much, Jennifer.

  8. 8
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    Christine — June 12, 2014 @ 10:16 am

    Thanks for this thoughtful post. I am excited for your family to have the opportunity to travel to our country’s oldest and greatest national park later this month. Be sure to visit the tourist sites such as Old Faithful and Morning Glory as well as some less-trammeled backcountry nooks. While working there with the Youth Conservation Corps for four summers, I felt continually astounded by the pristine solitude of the backcountry, despite the flooded overdevelopment of places in the front-country. Have fun!

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  10. 9
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    Paula — June 17, 2014 @ 6:16 pm

    This one final road trip *with* your Dad will be fun, poignant and truly memorable…for all of you. Safe travels. Beautifully written post and I hope you write about your time, experiences at Yellowstone.

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  12. 10
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    Janice @Kitchen Heals Soul — July 14, 2014 @ 4:28 pm

    I kinda stumbled on this post while browsing your blog. So my comment is coming in a little late. I can relate to the box that is there but that you can’t open, but that is such a comfort.

    I need to start by saying that my recent loss was totally not on the magnitude of losing a parent, not by any means. Still, I have the box containing what may be an urn of my cat’s ashes in it. I’ve had it on my nightstand next to my bed since March. I haven’t opened it. It’s just there. I can’t face the box, but I can’t let it go either. So, there it sits. I guess I was more dependent on that tiny little life than I realized. And because it’s been just me and her for the last 8 years (no boyfriend or anybody along the way), going through this was so very hard. It’s amazing how much a plain old cardboard box can contain.

    I am so sorry for your loss and from reading backwards through your posts to this one, I see that you took that trip with your Dad. There are no words that can make the loss of a loved one “better” but I do hope that you will find some comfort along the way.

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