Well, the school holidays are well and truly upon us and I face the challenge of keeping three kids happy and myself relatively sane. One activity that satisfies all four of us is fruit picking. Indeed, there will be many more trips this summer (I can’t resist this abundantly fresh fruit in my bakes). Indeed, what’s not to like? It is outdoors, a task for the children to carry out, cheap entertainment for them and fresh, ripe locally grown fruit and vegetables for my bakes and our supper.
This leads me nicely to the strawberry surplus in my fridge. The children were a bit over enthusiastic with their picking, in fact it was more like a harvest. Anyway, with a large, handled punnet of strawberries in my fridge, looking like they have seen slightly fresher days, my first attempt at jam making was upon me.
Naively, I thought making jam involved simply boiling fruit and preserving sugar. Now, having done a little research, yes…boiling fruit and sugar is the fundamental method… it appears it can be quite a bit more technical depending on the type of jam you hope to achieve. Firstly you need to consider the pectin level of the particular fruit. The pectin in the sweet fruit determines the setting level. Strawberries typically have low pectin levels. As my strawberries were freshly picked and grown outdoors they should have had sufficient pectin for setting and therefore I could have used solely granulated sugar. However, I wanted to ensure a good set so I used 50% granulated sugar and 50% preserve sugar. The lemon juice also acts a setting agent and well as a preservative.
So this is prime jam making season. So much lovely fresh fruit with good pectin levels. Stock up on fruit now and have a jam making session. It is very easy and very satisfying.
I was pleased with this first attempt at strawberry jam. Perfect on toast for the children, or fresh scones…
- 500g strawberries, rinsed, hulled and halved
- 3 tbsp. lemon juice
- 225g granulated sugar
- 225g preserve sugar
- Preheat the oven to 100 degrees C or Gas Mark 1/4. Place a saucer in the freezer (for the set test).
- Prepare the jars and lids by washing in soapy water and drying. Then place them in the oven, both facing down whilst the jam is being made.
- Put the strawberries and lemon into a large, heavy based saucepan and cook for 5-10 minutes over a medium heat until the berries are soft.
- Add both the sugars and heat gently, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring to the boil. Cook for approximately 15 minutes until your sugar thermometer reaches the 'jam' point, 105 degrees C. Alternatively, the setting point can be checked by dropping a small drop of jam onto the chilled saucer, allow it to cool and push it with your finger. When the jam wrinkles slightly, it is set. Always ensure that you remove the pan from the heat while you test for a set.
- Once the setting point has been reached, remove from the heat and spoon off any surface scum from the jam.
- Leave to cool slightly and then ladle into the warm, sterile jars. Allow to cool completely then top with waxed paper, seal with lid and label.
- Refrigerate the jam after opening.
Source: Slightly adapted from ‘The Preserving Book’ by Lynda Brown