Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Strawberry Jam


I don't have a happy history with strawberry jam. Three years ago, when Angus was around six weeks old and Bella two and a half, I went strawberry picking with a friend, and came back with a huge amount of fruit. That same afternoon, I carefully washed and hulled all the fruit and put it in the fridge. Where I promptly forgot all about it. One week later, I pulled the dried up, sorry looking strawberries from the fridge and attempted to coax them into jam by adding a little water with the sugar. Total disaster. And in my hormonal, sleep deprived, leaky boobed state it seemed even worse than it was. I was a failure. I couldn't even make jam. The moral of that story is don't try to set ridiculous standards of domestic goddess-ness when you have a toddler and a hungry new born baby. Or at any point in life, for that matter.

The following year I tried again and could not get it to set. I boiled it for hours until it evaporated down to one little jar of very expensive jam. Now I have learnt and I happily pass on my wisdom. Use pectin, or jam sugar, and all will be well. Now I actually like making jam.

All that fruit picking at the weekend prompted a happy few jam making sessions, with the tennis on the radio in the background. I love making jam because it lasts. When you cook a meal it is eaten, then the dishes are washed and put away, then got out again so that you can cook and eat another meal. Hours of preparation gone in minutes. Sometimes the repetition of those domestic chores (shop, cook, load dishwasher, unload dishwasher, shop, cook etc...) really grinds me down. But with jam, I make a big batch and pour the beautiful coloured sticky liquid into jars, then label them and put them on a shelf and admire them. Fabric pot covers are cut out and they are given as gifts. You get a bit more love back from a jar of jam.

I made two types - strawberry, and strawberry with rhubarb. The second was my friend Debora's suggestion and I don't know why this combination never occurred to me, it is so divine. The sweet and sharp flavours work so well together. The rhubarb gives it a real kick. The amount of fruit I used is just based on what I had to hand at the time. I find if I attempt more than 1.5 kg (approx 3 lbs) of fruit in one batch my jam looks scarily like it might boil over the pan and go everywhere. I use a 50/50 fruit to sugar ratio. Strawberries are naturally low in pectin so I always use jam sugar, which is just sugar with added pectin. The lemon also contains pectin which will help it set. I you're using a fruit that is naturally high in pectin like plums, damsons or apples, then you should just be able to use regular sugar.

Strawberry Jam
1 kg (2 lbs 4 oz) fresh strawberries
1 kg (2 lbs 4 oz) jam sugar
I lemon

Strawberry and Rhubarb Jam
650 g (1 lb 6 oz) strawberries
650 g (1 lb 6 oz) rhubarb
1.3 kg ( 2 lbs 14 oz) jam sugar
1 lemon

  • Sterilise your jars*. You will need roughly one jam jar per 250 g (9 oz) of fruit, although this depends of the size of your jars.
  • Wash and hull the strawberries and chop the large ones into smaller chunks. Wash the rhubarb (if using) and cut into 2 cm or 1 inch chunks.
  • Put the fruit and sugar into a large jam pan or stock pot and slowly bring it up to the boil. Squeeze the lemon juice over the fruit. I mash the strawberries with a potato masher or wooden spoon at this stage to crush them down a bit.
  • Put a saucer in the freezer.
  • Boil for ten minutes then start checking to see if the setting point is reached. To do this, take your saucer from the freezer and put a little jam on it. (The cold dish simply helps the jam set more quickly). When it is set, gently push your finger across it and if it wrinkles, it is ready. If it doesn't wrinkle, put the saucer back in the freezer and check every five minutes. If it really doesn't want to set, add a sachet of pectin to help it along. If you let it boil for too long it just evaporates, which is quite depressing after all that effort.
  • When it's ready, line up your jars ready to go.
  • Using a jam funnel (what a revelation that was!) ladle the jam into the jars, seal, and leave to cool.
  • Have lots of fun with labels and ribbons and other frippery.
Happy jamming people! Anyone have any other variations on or fruit combinations for strawberry jam? I would love to hear them. I wonder if strawberry and vanilla would work or if it would be too sweet?

**************************************************

*There are a few ways to sterilse your jars and lids. You can wash them really well with hot soapy water, rinse, then put them in the oven to dry (no higher than 180 c or 350 f). Or, after washing, fill each jar with boiling water from the kettle. Then when you're ready to pour the jam in, carefully tip out the water and fill with the jam. Or, put them through the dishwasher, taking care not to touch the insides of the jars as you remove them. You may need to use tongs or oven gloves to handle the hot jars. Always put hot food into hot jars, or cold into cold, or the glass may crack.






30 comments:

Colette said...

They look delicious! I will pass the strawberry and rhubarb recipe onto Mr, he is the jam maker in this house. We had a tonne of strawberries from our allotment this year (just as well, the slugs have eaten everything else) and were intending on making jam. Both girls had different ideas and insisted on strawberries with every meal. Shouldn't complain I know, but I was looking forward to strawberry jam ;-)

Jo said...

Your jars look so pretty with their gorgeous lids and labels. Nothing compares to home made jam.

Hazel said...

Wow! You made this look so easy and tasty! I have made dansom jam once, and it was very daunting but you made strawberry jam look easy! Think I might give this a go the weekend... brighten up this horrible weather with some sweet stickiness on fresh scones or bread... yummy! :)

andamento said...

Yummy! I've discovered I like making jam too. As you say, all the work involved seems worth it as it does last for a nice long time and it is great for gifts, though you have to be special to get one of my jars of jam because I do like to keep them all to myself if I could, having said that, two jars of rhubarb and ginger have already been gifted and my Mum has "hinted" that she would like a jar too, fortunately the rhubarb in the garden is sprouting again...

Jen Walshaw said...

I am a liability when it comes to jams. From dropped jars to ruined pans. I would rather just buy it from the farmers market at the moment!

Thomasina Tittlemouse said...

Your jam looks lovely and I know exactly what you mean about getting more from making jam than a meal that is scoffed and gone pronto. Like you I have had some history with jam-making and now cling to jam sugar like a long lost friend! Adding a handful of fresh mint leaves towards the end of the cooking gives a nice variation. Fish them out gain before potting the jam as they go rather brown and wilty after giving up their flavour but the result is good - aromatic and intriguing without knocking you over the head with an alternative flavour to the strawberry. Love your pot decoration - isn't that just the best bit?! E x

Caroline South said...

I love how pretty your jars look with the labels and fabric. What lovely gifts they would make. Thanks for sharing - I might have to try! xx

Lx @ Twelve said...

Found you via Nina @ Tabiboo - & now suitably inspired to tackle strawberry jam.
You have a lovely blog.

Lx

Jelly Jam said...

~Ah ha Gillian, a reminder I need to ask your domestic goddess advice. I couldn't remember where I'd got the recipe but after reading your post I remembered it was here! A few weeks ago I made your ginger and rhubarb jam. I used jam making sugar but it never set! It's been sat on the worktop ever since. evvery so often I pick up a jar in the hope it might have miraculously set itself. A friend told me I could reboil it? Do you or anyone reading this know if that's right or should I just bin it?
Ellie
x

mags said...

I've never tried making Jam (wine yes but not jam). Might actually have ago because I can feel some scones, jam and cream coming on ....!

Anonymous said...

plenty of jam you have there and they all look so pretty. i do love the sound of the strawberry and rhubarb...i bet this is delicious. xo

Grayseasailor said...

Gillian, someday you may want to try making strawberry jam with basil. Rebekka Seale on her blog Dear Friend shared her recipe which looks wonderful :)
http://dearfriendrebekkaseale.blogspot.com/search/label/Food
Gracie <3

...Tabiboo... said...

I love home made strawberry jam - like bottling the taste of Summer....especially in those cold dark Winter days when it's smeared thickly onto anything dripping with butter and toasted.

Happy days,

Nina xxx

Gillian said...

How lucky to have all those strawberries for free from your allotment, (and to have little ones that love fresh fruit!) The slugs and snails have been out in full force in my garden, grrr.

Gillian said...

Thank you. I know it's tragic but playing about with the lids and labels may be my favourite part!

Gillian said...

Oh Hazel, if you only knew the tears and traumas that went into my jam making forays... ;-) You should totally eat scones and jam this weekend, it is "summer" after all, ha ha. x

Gillian said...

Mmm, I love rhubarb and ginger, we have one of those left and I am saving it. Not sure what for, but it will be for me, and not a gift! x

Gillian said...

Oh no! I have had some boiling over disasters where the hob is covered in syrupy burnt glue, a nightmare to clean. Farmer's Market jam is also welcome at all times in this house. And Bon Maman. Actually, all jam! x

Gillian said...

Jam sugar and a jam funnel - if you use those two things it is a marvel! I love your mint suggestion, so summery. Thank you. And yes the pot decoration IS the best bit - so glad it's not just me who thinks that! x

Gillian said...

I was terrified of making jam for years until I plucked up the courage to try it. I thought it was something only proper grown ups attempted. I still need to get over my fear of making pastry though... x

Gillian said...

Hello L, nice to meet you! Thanks for stopping by and for such kind words. Gillian x

Gillian said...

Domestic Goddess *blushes*...if you could see the state of my house at the moment... Yes you can reboil it. Pour it back into the pan, wash and re-sterilise the jars, and reboil it. If it still wont set add a sachet of pectin, that should work. My strawberry jam is on the runny side but firmer when stored in the fridge. Hope that helps! Gillian x

Gillian said...

Never tried wine making but have fond memories of my Dad's homebrew beer and wine making when I was a child. Demi-johns of beer everywhere, my mum used to curse him for storing a HUGE plastic barrel in the airing cupboard... Only he drank it!

Gillian said...

Thank you - we are well stocked for teacher presents now and end of term is looming.

Gillian said...

Thank you, what a lovely idea, another summery herb. I will go and have a look at that blog.

Gillian said...

So well put Nina, that is exactly what it is like! Toast with lots of butter and jam is my weakness, I would rather have it than chocolate I think! x

Col @ Hello Olive said...

It looks delicious! I don't think I will ever be brave enough to attempt my own jam! x

Gillian said...

Do, it's easy, I promise! But not a task to do with toddlers around, it requires too much concentration! x

Angela said...

Hi! Sorry for the late comment, but I have been making strawberry jam this summer too. I made strawberry rhubarb and it is delicious. I also made strawberry and kiwi, which is very good. I have a friend who made strawberry chipotle, which is more of a savory jam -- delicious poured on top of cream cheese and eaten with crackers. Your blog is very beautiful -- I love your photographs:)

Gillian said...

Hi, thanks for your lovely, kind comment Angela. I am really excited by the idea of a savoury strawberry jam - I've never come across that but I can see how it would be great on top of cheese and crackers, a bit like a chutney. I'm off to google recipes now! Thanks for sharing. Gillian x