Friday, July 29, 2011

Strawberry jam

I've been wanting to make jam for ages - it seems the natural accompaniment to my bread baking and pickling exploits - so we all headed off to Craigie's "pick your own" farm out by South Queensferry. Before going, I'd checked my recipe books, and trusty Darina Allen of the Ballymaloe Cookery School had assured me that raspberry jam was the best for beginners, as strawberry jam could be a bit tricky. But when we arrived at the farm, there was barely a raspberry in sight. I was doubly disappointed: not only was I not going to be able to make my "beginners' jam", I was also going to have to bend for strawberries (raspberries grow on canes, so you can pick them standing, whereas strawberries are found underneath very low bushes).

We headed off to the strawberry fields, and I was soon cheered up by the realisation that I could actually pick the strawberries while lying down, popping the odd one into my mouth as I went. This is my kind of farming! After about an hour, of hard, supine labour, we had almost 3 kilos of little, ripeish strawberries. (For jam, it's important that your fruit is not overripe or bruised.)

Back in the kitchen, I checked my recipes again, but Darina Allen was prescribing redcurrant juice and more lemons than I had, so it was time to google. After a bit of searching, I finally hit upon Sophie Grigson on the BBC. I had all the ingredients, the recipe seemed nice and easy to follow, and best of all I had to leave the strawberries soaking in sugar overnight, which got me off the hook of actually making the jam that evening.

1 kg of unblemished, ripe(ish) strawberries [weight after preparation]
1 kg of caster sugar
juice of 1 lemon
small knob of butter

  1. Remove the stalks from your strawberries. Cut larger fruit into halves or quarters; leave very smal ones whole. Put the fruit into a large bowl, add 500g of sugar, cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight.
  2. The next day, put a plate in your freezer (you will need this to test the setting point) and sterilise your jars and any other equipment as follows: wash well, rinse, place upside down on a rack in your oven, heat the oven to 140oC, and once it has reached temperature, keep there for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, put the strawberry and sugar mixture into a very large saucepan (or a jam pan, if you have one), add the remaining 500g of sugar and the lemon juice and stir very well, over a low heat until all the sugar is dissolved.
  4. Turn the heat up and bring to a boil. If you have a cooking thermomenter, once the temperature reaches 105 oC, you can start testing for the setting point, as follows: drip a couple of drops of the jam 'juice' onto the cold plate. Leave to cool for a few seconds. If it is ready, then the surface will wrinkle when you push the drop with your fingernail. (Or you can just stick your finger in it and see if it has a slightly sticky, jammy consistency rather than a syrupy one.) It may take a good 20 minutes of boiling to reach the setting point; keep testing at regular intervals and make sure you don't overcook it.
  5. When your jam has reached setting point, turn off the heat, stir in a small piece of butter, skim off any scum on the top, and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  6. Ladle the jam into the sterilised jars (using a jam funnel if you have one), cover with a wax lid, and put a lid on the jar while still hot.


soaking strawbs

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