Roasted strawberries accented with a touch of balsamic vinegar and a hint of sugar are elegant. That’s the first word that comes to mind. They are sweet in a winy, deep, almost honeyed way that makes me slow down to savor the taste. I’ve used balsamic vinegar as an ingredient in strawberry jam before and love the results; it’s one of my favorite jams to make in terms of ease and deliciousness. A recent blog post about a lovely roasted strawberry cake gave me the idea of roasting strawberries for jam; I decided to experiment and ended up with preserves that are on the syrupy/saucy side and very, very tasty.
Roasting strawberries produces a thick, syrupy sauce that made me confident that jam would be an easy next step. I added very little sugar, even less than I usually do, because the innate sweetness of the berries comes out during the roasting process. Tarragon was thrown in for intrigue and because I didn’t have enough strawberries to make a separate batch of jam with it; I have wanted to try this combination for some time. The herb gives the preserves a slight taste of anise with a fresh “green” taste, if you know what I mean, and this pairing is one I immediately liked and will use again. This recipe makes a very small batch of preserves (3 half-pints for me) and can be jarred and processed in a water bath, as I did, or kept for a month or so in the fridge. Try it drizzled over a slice of moist yellow cake, as an ice cream topping or with ricotta cheese on an English muffin.
Roasted Strawberry Preserves with Tarragon
- 2 lbs. of flavorful (preferably fresh-picked) strawberries, washed and hulled
- 3 T. sugar + 1 c. sugar, separated
- 3 T. balsamic vinegar
- 9 whole leaves + 2 T. chopped fresh tarragon, separated (more if you really like tarragon)
- 1 T. lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover a baking sheet or large pan, preferably with lipped sides, with a silicone liner or parchment paper. I used parchment paper because it better fit the pan I was using, but getting the juice off the paper, post-roasting, was messy. Toss the strawberries gently with 3 T. sugar, balsamic vinegar and 9 whole leaves of tarragon; pour berries and any extra liquid onto the prepared pan and spread out to form a single layer with some space between the berries. Roast for 30-40 mins., checking occasionally, until the berries are soft and a great deal of juice has been released. The berries should be darker but not burnt or completely liquid. The smell will be intoxicating; you should probably taste-test at least one.
If you are planning to jar and process the preserves, now is the time to prepare your water bath and sterilize jars and lids. To make the preserves, transfer the roasted strawberries and every last teaspoon of juice you can get off the pan to a shallow, non-reactive jam pan or Dutch oven. Remove the whole tarragon leaves and discard. Add 1 c. of sugar and lemon juice to the berry mixture and heat over medium-high heat until you have a rolling boil. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to a consistency you like; I cooked mine for 15 mins. and deliberately left it saucy. Use one of these gelling tests if you like. At the last minute, add the chopped fresh tarragon and mix it in; cool and transfer your preserves to the fridge to keep or proceed with jarring. Add the very hot preserves to sterilized jars, wipe the jar rims, affix lids and rings and process for 10 mins. at a rolling boil. Remove your jars from the water bath and rest on a clean towel-covered counter overnight before checking for a seal and storing. Properly processed preserves should keep for up to a year; since this has very little sugar, you may want to try to use it within 6-9 months. It’s lovely, so that shouldn’t be a task.