Summer, this year, flew by so quickly! It’s starting to get a little “more” nippy in the evenings now by me in the Bay Area and the days are also slowly becoming shorter. While I just didn’t realize when the season came and went, it did leave me with some lovely memories like my first time strawberry picking…

…the Catalan cooking class I took in Barcelona…

and gorging myself with loads of mom-made food that was waiting for me after I got home from work!

As you can see, I didn’t didn’t spend much time in the kitchen over the summer but over the next few weeks as I slowly get back to blogging a bit more regularly, I will post a few concoctions I whipped over the summer. For now I’m kicking off the first post of my new season with something that’s a little sweet, a little tart and oh so good…my home-made strawberry jam with thyme and peppercorn!

There is nothing like picking your own fresh fruit and there are tons of farms that let you do it, here in and around the bay area. Last summer we went up to Brentwood for cherry picking and it was so much fun. And this summer, when the berry season was at it’s peak, we drove to a small farm in Pescadero, a little further ahead of Half Moon Bay and picked a lot of juicy, fresh strawberries! My little girl was so cute, running around the orchard, popping sweet strawberries in her mouth.

After a couple of hours at the farm, we had gathered about 3 pounds of strawberries that I brought home with me. After freezing about half of them to make quick smoothies or coulis for ice-creams and parfaits, I decided to use the rest for making jam at home.

I always have some sort of jam in my refrigerator, mostly its strawberry or raspberry. My daughter likes it for breakfast, with waffles and pancakes. With a bunch of strawberries on hand, I took out my cooking school binder and flipped through the pages to find a recipe I had jotted down while one of my instructors talked about how easy it was to make jams at home. I pulled out a pot and set the strawberries to simmer along with citrus juices, peppercorns and a few sprigs of home-grown thyme from my backyard.

The pepper and thyme add a subtle spiciness and wonderful warmth to the jam. Adding a little bit of confectioner’s or powdered sugar works great for jams as it makes them sweet and the corn starch in sugar acts as a thickening agent, giving the jam a jelly-like consistency. You can use my recipe with any other fruit or mixture of different fruits and play with the ingredients. Home-made jams, stored in air-tight containers, can last in the refrigerator for about 5-6 weeks.

After simmering in the pot for about an hour, my whole house was filled with sweet, tart strawberry fragrance and delicious, home-made jam was ready to be spread!

Makes about 1½ cups 

1 lb (about 4 cups) fresh strawberries, hulled

½ lemon, zested and juiced

½ orange, zested and juiced

5-6 sprigs of thyme (optional)

5-6 peppercorns (optional)

a pinch of salt

2-3 tbsp confectioner’s sugar, for desired level of sweetness

Place the berries in a medium saucepan. Add the lemon and orange, juices and zest along with thyme and peppercorns. Add a pinch of salt to balance out the flavors and simmer the mixture together for about 45-50 mins till the fruit is cooked and mushy.

Add the confectioners sugar and continue simmering for 10-15 more mins.

Remove from heat and let it cool for a few mins. Using a potato masher or the back of a ladle, mash the fruit to make a chunky jam or purée it with a hand blender to make a smooth spread.

Let it cool completely before transferring it into an air-tight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5-6 weeks.

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