Sunday, July 4, 2010

Strawberry Jam

There seems to be loads of strawberries about this year. Must be the fine weather at last. My lovely neighbours have gone on holidays and left loads of strawberries (and lettuces) unpicked, telling me to help myself to them. I gladly went with bowl in hand to collect some lovely fresh ripe strawberries and as there were so many I decided to make some strawberry jam. 

Simple Strawberry Jam
There are only 4 ingredients in this simple strawberry jam.
  • strawberries
  • sugar (I use granulated)
  • lemon juice - if not using 'jam sugar' - see below
  • small knob of butter
I use slightly less sugar by weight to strawberries eg: 500g strawberries to 400g sugar. Strawberries are low in pectin (the sustance that makes the jam set) so you can buy special jam sugar with added pectin, or alternatively use regular sugar and the juice of a lemon (1 lemon to each 500g of strawberries)

Chop the strawberries and sprinkle the sugar over them. Stir to coat the strawberries and leave to sit for 2-3 hours, or overnight.  The sugar draws out the juice from the strawberries and it starts to dissolve in the bowl. Place a small plate or saucer in your fridge.

To sterilise your jam jars either wash them in a hot wash in the dishwasher, or put them on a tray into a warm oven for at least half an hour. Do not touch the inside of the pots when you remove them from the oven/dishwasher. Put the strawberries in a preserve or maslin pan or heavy based saucepan (I use the saucepan from my pressure cooker) add the lemon juice, if using, and bring slowly to the boil stirring with a wooden spoon. When it comes to a rolling boil, stop stirring and leave the strawberries to boil for approx 5 minutes (or when the temperature reaches 220F on a jam thermometer) Take the cold plate from the fridge and drop a little jam onto it. Leave for a minute to cool and then push the jam slightly with your finger. There should be a wrinkle on the surface of the jam, that inidicates that it will set. If there is no wrinkle, boil the jam for another 2 minutes and try the plate test again. Stir in a small knob if butter, This settles down the foam on the jam (dont know how, but it works!)
Leave the jam to sit in the saucepan for about 10 minutes.  This allows the fruit pieces to settle in the jam and you won't end up with strawberries floating to the top of the jam pot. Use a jam funnel (it makes the job so much easier) to pour the jam into the sterilised jars.  Top with a waxed disc while the jam is still warm, this melts the wax a little and seals the jam,and then cover with a sellophane disc. When the jar is cool you can label and top with a pretty jam pot cover.    
note: 500g strawberries will yield 2-3 small jars of jam.