The idea for this jam came about for three reasons. One, last Saturday was the first time this spring that strawberries appeared at my local farmers' market. Two, I recently invested in a really nice bottle of aged balsamic vinegar. And three, I had some fresh thyme in my fridge that was about to go bad.
I had seen recipes for berry jams with thyme before, but always shied away from them. Didn't thyme belong with savory dishes like roast chicken? I couldn't quite wrap my head around incorporating it into something fruity and sweet. I worried the flavor would be too powerful and herbaceous, and wouldn't pair well with breakfast fare like toast and coffee.
Well, my concerns were totally unfounded.
"The balsamic vinegar brings out the juicy, sunny taste of the strawberries."
This jam is insanely delicious; equal parts sweet and sophisticated. The balsamic vinegar brings out the juicy, sunny taste of the strawberries. And the thyme, oh the thyme! It provides an addictive, lemony, herby essence that had me dreaming of slathering it over grilled bread with ricotta, and had my husband fantasizing about squishing it between two shortbread cookies.
For this recipe, I used a package of regular powdered fruit pectin. For really juicy fruits (like strawberries) I think it's the best way to thicken and set the jam. However, If you don't want to add pectin you can thicken the jam by simmering it for an extra 40 to 45 minutes. To see if it's done, I like the freezer test: drop a spoonful of jam onto a small plate and put it in the freezer for a few minutes. If the jam gels, it's done.