Nothing says summer like strawberries, and making strawberry jam in a hot hot kitchen.  All year long we dreamingly await our small Canadian berries that  actually taste like the strawberries we remember, not red, perfectly shaped fruit on steroids that makes you forget what real strawberries taste like.

I have a favourite memory of strawberry picking as a kid. We’d go most years and eat more berries that we would likely bring home.  One year, my brother, who must have been 4 or 5 (or maybe even older) thought he was being incredibly smart and  decided he would bring his own private stash of strawberries home.  With my mom’s back turned, he filled every imaginable pocket with strawberries.  I’m not sure if my mom was more mad my brothers attempt at robbery, or the stains on his jeans.  For his part, my brother was just upset that his precious strawberries had been rendered nothing more than a squished, lint covered mess.

We picked up our first basket of local strawberries last Friday.  With fresh  rhubarb from the garden of my husband’s colleague, we devoured a strawberry – rhubarb crisp in record time.  On Sunday we picked up a huge basket, and thinking that we probably wouldn’t go through it in time without getting sick (is there such a thing as too many strawberries?), we decided to try our hand at some jam.

Strawberry Mint came to my mind, and so, I googled “strawberry mint”, and a Strawberry, Mint, Blackpepper Jam popped up.  A strawberry, mint blackpepper jam that took 3 days to make. I’d never heard of anything more than boiling strawberries and sugar and canning it. A 3 day jam?!  I was intrigued. Plus I have a house to pack, this sounds like the perfect tool for procastination.

3 days, and 3 stages later. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything so absolutely delicious.  Max agrees.  I’ve never seen his face light up so much after a taste of anything.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the black pepper and mint. Its just a hint, and it makes the jam perfect.   Also, don’t be overwhelmed by the 3 day process, the amount of time required on each day is limited, and I think that letting the strawberries macerate really helps with the taste.

Strawberry Jam with Mint and Black Pepper

This is adapted from Christine Feber’s – Confiture de Fraises au Poivre Noir et à la Menthe Fraîche

2lbs fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered if large.
3.5 cups sugar
juice and zest from one lemon
10 mint leaves bruised
10 grains of black pepper, freshly ground

Prepare Strawberries

1. Rinse the strawberries under cold water, and remove the stems.  Half and quarter of large. Try to dry them as much as possible either with a strainer or patting them gently with a paper towel or kitchen towel.

2.  Gently fold in the lemon juice, zest and sugar in a non reactive bowl.  Cover with parchment and let macerate overnight.

3. The next day, pour the strawberry mixture in a large saucepan. I used our le creuset dutch oven since I use this for everything.  Bring the mixture to a simmer, then either return to the original non-reactive dish, or, refridgerate in the dutch oven.

4.  On the third day, place a small plate in the freezer, and prepare the glass jars and lids. We use a pressure canner which is not necessary for jam. Otherwise, follow this method from Bernadine canning:

5. Wash and clean mason jars then place clean mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat to a simmer (180°F/82°C). Set screw bands aside. Heat SNAP LID® sealing discs in hot water, not boiling (180°F/82°C). Keep jars and sealing discs hot until ready to use.

6. Using a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon grind peppercorns and bruise mint leaves. Set aside.

7.  Pour the strawberry mixture through a sieve, separating the berries from the syrup.  Bring the syrup to a boil and let it boil for approximately 10 minutes, or until its reached a temperature of 105 degrees C or 221 F.  Depending on preference remove the foam from the jam.

9. Once desired temperature is reached, add the strawberries, the mint and the pepper. Bring to a boil for another 5 minutes, stirring gently.  Take the small plate out of the freezer and test whether the jam is set by dropping a bit of jam on the plate and tilting it, continue to boil until the jam has reached its desired consistency.

10.  Quickly ladle hot jam into a hot jar to within 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) of top of jar (headspace). Using nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if required, by adding more jam. Wipe jar rim removing any food residue. Centre hot sealing disc on clean jar rim. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight. Return filled jar to rack in canner. Repeat for remaining jam.

11. When canner is filled, ensure that all jars are covered by at least one inch (2.5 cm) of water. Cover canner and bring water to full rolling boil before starting to count processing time. At altitudes up to 1000 ft (305 m), process –boil filled jars – 10 minutes.

12. When processing time is complete, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars without tilting and place them upright on a protected work surface. Cool upright, undisturbed 24 hours; DO NOT RETIGHTEN screw bands.

13. After cooling check jar seals. Sealed discs curve downward and do not move when pressed. Remove screw bands; wipe and dry bands and jars. Store screw bands separately or replace loosely on jars, as desired. Label and store jars in a cool, dark place.

Now….you’ll have to bake some fresh bread to go with that jam. Check out the easy artistinal recipe we make. I’ll try to add some pictures soon!

Now on to packing…..