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Strawberry Jam with Fresh Mint and Black Pepper - Adapted from Christine Ferber's Strawberry Jam Recipe

I am fortunate to have found some Albion variety strawberries at the fruit stand this fall. I have wanted to try one of Christine Ferber's French jam recipes, and these fine berries will be the test subjects.  Albion strawberries are superb and worth the extra time and attention- perfect for French jam making and Christmas gifts! Strawberries have little natural pectin and this French style uses no added pectin, so you enjoy a more syrupy consistency.

French strawberry Jam (1 of 1)
French Style Strawberry Jam

First, I will be sharing just the recipe for making jam.  If you need information about the basic canning process please click here for Canning Instructions from Virginia Tech.

For those new to canning, please note that it is important not to make changes to the recipe.  Proportions are important and must be maintained for success. It is also not advisable to double the recipe because larger volumes would slow evaporation and affect the fresh flavor we want.

 If you would like to print this recipe without all the pictures please click here to Download Strawberry Jam with Fresh Mint and Black Pepper.

Strawberry Jam with Fresh Mint and Black Pepper

Author: Adapted from Christine Ferber's Strawberry Jam Recipe

Recipe type: 




 4 or 5 half pints

Prep time: 

24-48 hours


Head space:

1/4 inch

Cook time: 

30 minutes



10 minutes in half-pint jars

Total time: 

24-48 hours plus 30 minutes



  • 2½+ pounds fresh strawberries (2 1/3 lb after hulling and slicing)
  • 4 cups granulated cane sugar (825 g or 1 lb 13 oz)
  • 5 peppercorns - ground
  • 5 bruised mint leaves 
  • Zest and juice of one large lemon 


  1. Wash, dry, hull and slice your strawberries. Place the strawberries into a large non-reactive bowl (glass or stainless). Stir in the sugar and the lemon juice.  
  2. Let sit (macerate) 2 hours.
Start of Macerate

I know this looks like a lot of sugar, but it is a comparatively moderate amount as far as jam goes.The sugar added to the berries will pull  the natural juices from the berries and create wonderful flavorful syrup. The amount of sugar you add helps determine the amount of liquid in the final jam.

3.   Simmer strawberries in a wide-bottomed pan ,or a preserving pan, just until sugar melts- we don't want to cook them yet!

Simmer strawberries
Simmering Strawberries in Preserving Pan

4.  Pour strawberries into a nonreactive bowl . Cover with parchment paper and store in the refrigerator (macerate) overnight.

5.  Next day, or if you have time to wait, the second day (48 hours), pour the contents through a sieve to collect juice and separate berries. Bring just the collected syrup to a boil, skim, and continue cooking on high heat until a candy thermometer, or digital meat thermometer, reaches 221 degrees (The syrup will be sufficiently concentrated at 221 degrees [105 degrees C] on a candy thermometer).  

6.Meanwhile while the syrup comes to a boil set up your water bath canner, sterilize your jars and warm your lids in a pan of hot water.

7.   Meanwhile stir in ground pepper to the separated strawberries. I found it easier to just eye-ball a moderate amount of black pepper rather than separating out 5 peppercorns to be ground. Also, mash about 1/4 of the total berries - I used a potato masher for the job.

Ground pepper in strawberries
Ground pepper in strawberries

8.   Meanwhile while the syrup comes to a boil, bruise washed mint leafs by tapping the leaves quickly and firmly with wooden spoon until they become darker and floppier. Wrap mint in spice bag (I used a Tea Infuser ).

bruising washed mint leafs
Bruising mint leafs

9.   When the syrup reaches 221 degrees, add strawberries mixture with pepper and mint to the hot syrup to cook. Return mixture to a  boil on high heat. Boil the mixture for five minutes, stirring gently. Remove pot from heat. Check the set (it will be somewhat loose). You can check set by using the sheet or plate test. If too loose cook again and check every 1 minute and test it again. Take care NOT to over cook, or you will lose its fresh flavor.

(Below) The looser jam on left was cooked for 5 minutes, has a bright color, and tastes fresh with  fruit that still has texture.  The jam on the left was cooked for close to 10 minutes. It has a nice firm set, but is much darker and tastes somewhat caramelized. 

strawberry Jam group
Loose set vs. Caramelized

 9.   When set, let the jam cool for 5-10 minutes before ladling into 1/2 pt jars to prevent separating. Don't skip this step - or  strawberries will float to top of jar.

Note: Processing time given is for 1000 foot elevation and below. If you are working at a higher elevation click here for information about needed time adjustments.

10.   Pour the jam into sterilized jars with 1/4 inch head space. Transfer to boiling water bath for and process for 10 minutes if using half-pint jars or 15 minutes if using pint jars.


Ready to Jar
Strawberry Jam Skimmed and Ready to Jar

 Jam will last at least one year at peak quality.

I suggest you label your jam jars. One may simply write on the lid, or you may download my personal labels Download Strawberry Jam with Fresh Mint and Black Pepper round label My labels have a larger round label for the lid and a smaller oval label for the front of jar. One just needs to write in the canning date, cut out, and glue the label on the jar. If the jam will be used as Christmas gifts, The Graphics Fairy has some nice ideas for holiday labels

The Professor's Rating

The Professor gave it 3 stars (he said maybe 3 3/2). He very much enjoyed the taste, but did not like the jam dripping off his toast. He preferred the American style jam I shared October 10, 2016. (Personally, I like a looser set and did not find the dripping bothersome - I liked the way it soaked into the bread). However, it tastes marvelous and earns a place in our pantry as a strawberry sauce. The mint and pepper is quite subtle, as I prefer when working with exceptionally tasty berries.  Some mint lovers might like to increase the mint.

  French Style Strawberry Jam Demystified

Jam scientist's notebook coloredHow do I know this recipe is safe? pH, aw, and Heat

pH  - To be safe from botulism bacteria growth and its food poisoning toxins, the pH of canned goods must be below 4.6 (one wants to stay below pH 4.4. to be on the safe side). Strawberries are generally between pH 3.0 and 3.9. We added some lemon juice to the recipe so the jam should be between pH 3.0 and 3.4 - well within the safety zone.

Water activity - We also added sugar in this recipe. Salt and sugar "hold onto" water very well and therefor the water is not usable to bacteria for growth. The measurement of how much water is available for microbes' growth is called water activity or aw. A water activity of 0.85 or less is considered the safe cutoff level for deterring pathogen growth (however, yeasts and molds can still grow at at this level). Traditionally made jams (like the one we just made) have a water activity of between 0.75 - 0.80 - so we have additional protection from bacteria growth because of the sugar. Traditional jams will last almost twice as long as low sugar jams because of their lower water activity, and they are safe for longer times out of the refrigerator.

Heat - Processing the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes is enough heat to kill actively growing bacteria and prevent yeast and mold growth under normal sanitary circumstances. This is how we control the yeasts and molds that were not affected by the low pH or moderately low water activity.

What is maceration?

The sugar added to the berries will pull  the natural juices from the berries and create flavorful syrup. This way you will not need to add water to the recipe, and will not dilute the taste. It is interesting to note that in this context the amount of sugar you add helps determine the amount of liquid in the final product and how concentrated the flavor will be. Also, macerating for longer periods of time helps the sugar inside the berries and sugar in the syrup equilibrate. This causes the berries to be less likely to float in the jar.

Why cook the juice first?

Heat is the enemy of flavor. By heating the juice first you quicken the cooking process for the berries and end up with a fresher tasting jam. By concentrating the juice (and concentrating the sugar in the juice) by evaporation we can get away with using less sugar in the recipe.











The Jam Scientist


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