At Gizdich Farms in Watsonville, you pick berries and pay at the end by the pound. Masks required in the field of course and dogs are welcomed as long as they stay around the perimeter of the growing space.

Recipe: Strawberry, Black Pepper & Balsamic Jam

Erica Lovelace Cooks


A slightly new take on a classic spread using strawberries from Gizdich Farms located in Watsonville. It’s a short drive from San Francisco in Santa Cruz county. Gizdich, a combination farm and small dry goods shop, is busy in June during the peak of strawberry season. Thank you Serious Eats for the inspiration for this recipe.

Couple of helpful hints:

1. When using this recipe, think of this as guidelines, not exact directions. If you have less berries, scale down the recipe in ratios.

2. When you’re picking strawberries and turning them into jam, it’s hard to gauge how much you pick in the field. A good rule of thumb is to start small and then go big next season. We harvested over 10 lbs of strawberries, taking into account waste, we made over 20, 8 oz jars of jam.

3. Depending on the time and place you pick your berries, they may require a tad more sugar to offset their tartness. We happened to pick these lovelies at peak season, so we really cut back on our sugar quantity for this batch. Taste your jam throughout the cooking process to get it where you like it.


Large sauce pot


12–24, 8 oz jam jars from Ball that include the ring and lids*

Extra canning lids

Canning tongs

Canning rack

Canning funnel

Labels for the jars

Potato masher

Digital scale

*Note: I recommend purchasing extra lids. In case your seal doesn’t work the first time, you’ll need to process the jars again using a fresh lid. For food safety purposes, the lids are only good for 1 sealing attempt.


3 kilograms of strawberries, ~6.5 lbs, trimmed and soaked in mildly salty water for 30 minutes

3 oz of pectin

1400 grams of granular sugar, ~7 cups

3 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup of balsamic vinegar

Juice from 1 lemon

Jam Directions:

1. Sterilize your jars and rings by running them in a “hot” or “sanitation” cycle of your dishwasher. Otherwise, boil the jars and rings in water for several minutes and let them cool on a clean towel

2. Remove the water from the strawberries by throwing them in a salad spinner for 20 seconds

3. Add the strawberries, pectin, vinegar, sugar, lemon juice, and black pepper to a large sauce pot and bring to a simmer. This will take about 20 minutes when done over an electric stove top on medium-high heat. During this process, I use a potato masher to encourage the strawberries to release all their juices

4. Boil the mixture for several minutes until the mixture becomes a thick sauce. If it coats the back of your wooden spoon, you’re on the right track. You shouldn’t boil hard for more than 5 minutes. Make sure the mixture doesn’t stick or burn to the bottom of your pot

5. Cut the heat. Skim any foam off the top of the hot mixture using a spoon or ladle

6. Ladle the mixture into 8 oz sterilized jars using a funnel before processing them in a hot water bath

Hot Water Bath Directions:

1. Fill your clean sauce pot 75% of the way with water and place a canning rack inside before bringing to a boil

2. Once ready, carefully lower the jars into the boiling water with the canning tongs

3. Let the jars sit in the boiling water, uncovered for 10 minutes. If the boil is too strong, crank the heat down to medium-high — the water should boil less aggressively but should still be bubbling

4. Once completed, remove the jars with the tongs and place upright onto a clean towel to cool for several hours before testing to make sure the seal was successful. To do this, remove the ring from the jar, hold the lid an inch off the kitchen countertop over a towel. If the lid separates from the glass jar, the seal didn’t work and it needs to be processed again, preferably 12 hours from the first attempt. This should be done using a new lid but feel free to reuse the ring and jar as long as they are sterilized again

5. Label the jars with the month and date before distributing to friends, family and/or storing in your own home for up to a year



Erica Lovelace Cooks

Hapa Southerner living in San Francisco | North Beach. Documenting recipes, collecting cookbooks, and writing. Marketing by day.