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Strawberry Jam with Black Pepper and Tarragon

July 6, 2011

Strawberries and tarragon are one of my favorite summer food pairings. A friend introduced me to the transcendental combination a few years ago in a simple salad:

sliced strawberries + tarragon + balsamic vinegar = perfect summer.

It’s one of those indelible food moments for me that doesn’t fade with time.

So why in the heck did I wait so long to bring them together in a jam?

Because I usually gorge myself on fresh berries leaving too few for jam making.
Because I’ve never found a reliable pectin-free strawberry jam recipe that didn’t involve boiling the beautiful berries until they were lifeless.
Because…well, does it really matter why? I’ll skip to the end, to the present: this is the best jam I’ve ever conjured up in my kitchen, which given my affinity for all things preserved, says a lot.

This jam is delicious on whole grain toast, a still-warm hunk of French bread, and these crackers. It’s a natural with peanut butter. And it’s better than honey with a piping hot biscuit. But midway through my second jar in five days I discovered the perfect mate for my muse: cheese. We had it with our favorite Pleasant Ridge Reserve, though I suspect it’s equally yummy with a mild white cheddar. I’m planning to try it soon, very soon, with Gruyère in these irresistible grilled cheese sandwiches.

Run to the market, grab a couple quarts of the season’s last strawberries and a fistful of fresh tarragon and conjure up your own batch of bliss today.

Strawberry Jam with Black Pepper and Tarragon

Inspired by Cathy Shambley‘s version of a Christine Ferber recipe from Mes Confitures.


    2 quarts strawberries (about 3 pounds)
    4 ½ cups granulated sugar
    1 lemon, juice and zest
    2 tablespoons tarragon, roughly chopped
    1 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground (about 40 peppercorns)


  1. Rinse the berries. Slice them in half or in quarters depending on size.
  2. Combine the berries, sugar, and lemon juice and zest in a bowl. Cover and let macerate overnight.
  3. The next day, put the berry mixture in a large sauce pan and bring it to a gentle simmer. Stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves then remove from heat.
  4. Using a sieve, separate the berries from the juice.
  5. Return the liquid to the pan. Bring to a boil and cook on high until concentrated. If you have a candy thermometer, boil until it reaches 221°F. (This took about 20 minutes.)
  6. Add the reserved strawberries, tarragon, and pepper to the syrup. Allow the mixture to boil for about five minutes.
  7. Process the jam immediately using your method of choice. If you’re a canning novice, The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a great resource: Processing Jams and Jellies.

Makes 6 cups.

If you’re bitten by the jam-making bug this summer, consider trying some mulberry jam or fig preserves.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. farmer_g permalink
    July 6, 2011 7:27 pm

    The photo looks good enough to eat.

  2. Penny permalink
    May 31, 2013 3:43 pm

    Followed the recipe exactly. Way too sweet, no tarragon or black pepper flavors, and it didn’t set up.

    • May 31, 2013 5:02 pm

      Hi Penny, I’m not sure what I can say to help. We make this jam religiously every summer, because we love it so much. The consistency isn’t thick for mine either. The black pepper though is sometimes too much for my husband’s liking, so it’s funny that you didn’t pick up on the pepper notes. I hope you can find a use for your batch. Good strawberries are just so hard to find; I hate the thought that you wasted them here.

      • Penny permalink
        June 3, 2013 3:39 pm

        No, not going to waste. It’ll be great as a sweetener in home made lemonade. I took the jar I didn’t process, and separated the berries from the liquid. A few drops adds a nice note to mixed drinks!


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