Robin Mather’s Whole Strawberries in Balsamic-Black Pepper Syrup

Listen to interview.

In the span of a week in April 2009, Robin Mather was laid-off from her job at theChicago Tribune and saw her marriage of 12 years crumble. Devastated, she retreated to a small cottage in her native Michigan. An award-winning food writer and editor for three decades, Robin now had to live on $40 a week. In her new book, The Feast Nearby, Robin writes about how she rediscovered the joys of cooking, and the benefits of eating locally.

Robin shared this recipe from the book. She says, “These sweet-savory preserves are a boon alongside plain roasted meats, as well as a surprising filling for a layer cake or spooned over pound cake. They are also delicious, of course, straight from the jar on toasted brioche or rustic bread with good butter.”

Directions

Sort the berries, leaving small ones whole and slicing large ones in half. Spread half the berries in a shallow pan and sprinkle with 1 cup of the sugar. Repeat with the remaining berries and another 1 cup of sugar. Cover and let stand overnight at room temperature.

The next day, transfer the berries to a colander set over the pot you'll use to make the preserves. Let the berries drain. Set the colander with the berries over the bowl while you prepare the balsamic-black pepper syrup and prepare the jars and canner.

Add the remaining 3 cups sugar, balsamic vinegar and black peppercorns to the preserving pot that holds the strawberry juice. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a hard, rolling boil that can't be stirred down. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture thickens and reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.

Add the strawberries and any additional juice to the preserving pot. Return the mixture to a hard boil, stirring constantly, until mixture returns to 220 degrees.

Remove the preserves from the heat. Skim off and discard any foam. Let stand for 10 minutes, then fill the warm sterilized half-pint jars and seal with the prepared lids. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. Store the jars in a cool, dry place.

Note: To make vanilla sugar: Add 1 or 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise, to a pound of sugar and let stand, closely covered, for a couple of weeks before using.

Note: To crack whole peppercorns, place the peppercorns in a heavy-duty zip-top bag and run a rolling pin over them several times until they are coarsely cracked.

Per serving (per 1/4 cup): 203 calories; 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat; 0 percent calories from fat); 50 g carbohydrates; 0 mg cholesterol; 2 mg sodium; 1 g protein; 2 g fiber.

Per serving (per 1 tablespoon): 51 calories; 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat; 0 percent calories from fat); 13 g carbohydrates; 0 mg cholesterol; 0 mg sodium; 0 g protein; 0.5 g fiber.


Yield: Makes about 6 half pints

What's Needed:

 

• 5 pounds strawberries, rinsed and hulled
• 5 cups vanilla sugar (see note)
• 3 cups good-quality balsamic vinegar
• 2 tablespoons coarsely cracked black peppercorns (see note)

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