Strawberry Balsamic Preserves : The Wimpy Vegetarian

Every year I make a little more jam, a little more experimenting with seasonal fruits at their peak. And every year I wonder why I don’t do this more often. It’s really so easy, and besides a funnel, a candy thermometer, and a really large pot, there’s not a lot of special equipment involved. My little jam operation here at kitchen central is small production; sometimes only enough jam to fill two 16-ounce jars.

Jam making is essentially nothing more complicated than preserving fruit with sugar. The sugar also helps to set the gel of the jam when the mixture is heated to eight degrees above the boiling point (called, fittingly, the gel point temperature).  At sea level, that equates to 220 degrees F (212 + 8 = 220). At 6500 feet above sea level where we spend a lot of time at Tahoe, the set temperature is 208 degrees F. Pectin is the other key component of getting a good set. Pectin is a natural, water-based substance present in ripe fruit which is essential for thickening preserves. It varies by the type of fruit, which is one of the drivers to adding liquid or powdered pectin to low-pectin fruit, or combining a low pectin fruit like strawberries with a high pectin vegetable like rhubarb.

A few cooking notes:

This strawberry jam doesn’t use any pectin and puts strawberries in the starring role, so it’s critical to get the jam temperature up to the gel point for your altitude unless you’re shooting for jam soup. If you’re not sure exactly what your altitude is, just bring a pot of water to a boil. Immediately take the temperature of the water using a candy thermometer and add eight degrees.

The lemon juice sharpens the fruit flavor, and is believed to activate its gelling action.

This jam is a little liquidy, but is so loaded with strawberries it feels like the right balance to me. But if you prefer a little more set to your jam, add some pectin. I don’t have a specific recommendation for how much since a) I haven’t actually done it with this recipe, and b) it depends on your personal preference for degree of set.

Lastly, I macerate the fruit in the sugar overnight, a trick I picked up from Christine Ferber in her wonderful ‘Mes Confitures’ book. She claims a gradual absorption of sugar promotes preservation of the texture of the fruit, and I’m inclined to agree. If you’re pressed for time and need to combine the ingredients and make jam immediately, feel free. No adjustment to the recipe is required.

 

Strawberry Balsamic Preserves : The Wimpy Vegetarian

Strawberry Balsamic Preserves

     by Susan Pridmore

     Makes two 16-ounce jars

     

Ingredients 

  • 2 pounds strawberries, hulled, net weight, halved (I started with 2 1/2 lbs to get to 2 lbs net wt)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Instructions

Combine the first three ingredients together in a stainless bowl, and macerate overnight.

The following day, pour the fruit and macerating liquid into a wide-mouthed stainless or copper pot. Add the balsamic vinegar, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent the fruit from sticking to the bottom of the pot, and skimming the foam from the top using a metal spoon. The best way to remove the foam from the spoon is to dip it into a bowl of water. The spoon will immediately be ready for additional skimming.

Using a candy thermometer, bring the temperature to the gel point temperature for your altitude which is 8 degrees higher than the boiling point of liquid (220 degrees F at sea level, 208 degrees F at 6500 feet above sea level).

Boil for an additional 2 – 3 minutes.The strawberries should be somewhat translucent, but full of color. The foaming action should stop, and the bubbles from the boiling should become larger and lazier bubbles. (This is not a hard gelling jam, so traditional gel tests may not be accurate indicators that the preserves are ready.)

Immediately fill sterilized jars using a ladle and a funnel, wipe the lip of the jar clean with a clean cloth, screw on the lid. If there are any preserves on the lip of the jar, you will not get a good seal. Keep on the counter until it seals, about an hour. Enjoy!

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16 Responses to “Strawberry Balsamic Preserves” Subscribe

  1. TasteFood July 27, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    I love strawberries and balsamic. Thanks for the sterilizing tips!

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian July 29, 2012 at 10:30 am #

      Thanks Lynda! You can add more balsamic vinegar depending on how much of the flavor you want. I put just enough in to sharpen and brighten the strawberry flavor, but you don’t really taste the vinegar specifically.

  2. lizthechef July 27, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    Pretty photos, Susan, and your high altitude tips are great. I add some Grand Marnier to mine but the balsamic sounds terrific.

  3. Green Dragonette July 27, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    I love making strawberry jam-the aroma in the house when making jam is truly fantastic! I do find it so interesting the difference in jam making done in the UK and ‘across the pond’. Here we don’t have or use water bath canning at all-perhaps because our weather is milder-yet to hear of any case food poisoning caused by homemade jam in this country…

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian July 29, 2012 at 10:35 am #

      I must admit I primarily use water bath canning with tomato sauce I plan to put up for close to a year, and I’ve read that this is mostly a US thing. I know water bath canning isn’t typically done in France either. I’m not sure why it’s so prevalent here quite honestly.

  4. Choc Chip Uru July 27, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

    I just want to dig into this with my spoon, it looks incredible :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  5. apuginthekitchen July 27, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    I always learn so much from you, honestly, you have a way of explaining things that make it easy to understand and that it’s actually doable. I have shy’d away from making jam afraid of the process, the whole process, cooking to the right temp, pectin, sterilizing the works. I love your jam and your easily understandable instructions.

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian July 29, 2012 at 10:41 am #

      Thanks much Suzanne! I hope you give it a try. I kept my distance for quite awhile until we started preserving classes when I was in school and realized it was really quite easy. I have various tools like funnels designed for canning with wide mouthed funnels that sit on jars, but really it doesn’t take much to start to can.

  6. Norma Chang July 28, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    This is such an easy jam to make, love the addition of balsamic vinegar.

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian July 29, 2012 at 10:42 am #

      Thanks Norma! The balsamic vinegar really heightens the strawberry flavor and brightens it up without screaming balsamic vinegar. But an additional tablespoon could be added without worries for a little more balsamic flavor.

  7. kalamitykelli August 2, 2012 at 5:29 am #

    I read this via retweet from Oh Cake! I love strawberry and vinegar – I also add fresh ground black pepper to mine – you have to let it “settle” for 1 month after processing in order for all the tastes to mellow but it is soooooo worth it! Love you pictures and high altitude instructions!

    • The Wimpy Vegetarian August 2, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

      I am totally going to add ground black pepper next time. I love that combination. I had thought about it, but wanted to try these 2 simple flavors first to punch up the strawberry fruit flavor. Thanks for stopping by!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Graveyard Brownies in a Pool of Strawberry Syrup | The Wimpy Vegetarian - October 28, 2012

    [...] pool of blood strawberry syrup is just melted strawberry preserves, [...]

  2. Strawberry Picking at Sweet Berry Farm - June 12, 2013

    [...] I had never been strawberry picking before, and was delighted by how adorable the strawberries were. They looked like the strawberries you see in drawings; that perfect strawberry shape, small, soft, and bright red. Sometimes when pulling them off the stem, I heard a little “pop” like a suction cup being removed – it made the berries seem even more fresh. When we got home, I made a small batch of strawberry balsamic preserves. [...]

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