As a Canadian, I think it is safe to say that for approximately 9 months of the year we spend our time remembering the taste of Ontario Strawberries as we bite into bland strawberry shaped imposters that leave our tastebuds crying out "Where is the FLAVOUR?"
The Ontario strawberry season is short, but it is ever so sweet and flavourful. The berries burst with juiciness and our minds try to imprint that sensation so that throughout the rest of the year when all we are faced with are dry imported strawberries we can try to trick ourselves into believing they actually have flavour.
That is why when strawberries are here I tend to pounce on them, stuffing them into my face and into jars at a rate that surprises even myself. No shame and no regrets.
In June of this year, I was a vendor at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival. It is a great event in Picton and I thoroughly enjoy being a part of it. I meet great people, get to spend a weekend in the ever so lovely Prince Edward County, but I also get to buy LOTS and LOTS of fantastic cheese. While stuffing my face (you get the theme, right?) with some amazing Quebec cheese, I started to think about a strawberry balsamic jam I had tried last year and how it would pair amazingly with this cheese with a few changes.
Strawberry Balsamic Jam - (adapted from a recipe by Alec Stockwell)
8 heaping cups of hulled strawberries
3 cups sugar
4 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp cracked black pepper
3 tbsp chopped fresh basil
Wash and hull your strawberries. Cutting the larger strawberries in half and leaving smaller strawberries whole. In a non-reactive bowl combine the strawberries with the sugar and lemon juice. Stir thoroughly, cover with a cloth and place in a cool place and allow to macerate for up to 24 hours. Note: I really like to let them sit for the full 24 hours to pull the juice out of the berries.
Sterilize jars and warm your lids. In a wide bottomed, non-reactive pot bring the strawberry mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.
With a slotted spoon, remove the strawberries and place in a bowl. Continue to boil the liquid until it begins to thicken and coat the back of a spoon. Return the strawberries to the pot and stirring constantly, bring it back to a boil until the contents begin to thicken up nicely.
Add vinegar and pepper and on medium heat continue to cook the jam until you reach your setting point. Remove from heat and stir in the fresh basil.
Ladle into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4" headspace, seal with warm lids and process for 10 minutes at a rolling boil.
Yields approximately 8 - 125ml jars