First of all a very happy July 4th to all our lovely readers state-side. We are super jealous and wish you all a lovely holiday, whether you are spending some fun summery time at the beach or just chilling with family, eating icecream and enjoying each other’s company (at least, that’s what we would be doing if we were there! :D).
So, onto our yummy recipe for the day. Phil and I are total suckers for a good berry in store reduced price sale at the grocery store (which luckily happens fairly regularly around these parts. I guess berries are one of those things that stores tend to over order on sometimes). So, post the Queen’s Diamond Jubillee celebrations, when the stores were jam packed (he he pun intended) with reduced price punnets of Strawberries, we couldn’t resist but to pick up a few and pop them in the freezer for a rainy day of Jam making. We usually try to make a batch of jam a couple of times each summer. I wish I could say they lasted us the rest of the year, but once that jar is popped it doesn’t last very long around here!
Well, on Saturday Phil and I woke up, looked at the pretty icky weather and decided today was the day to bust out our jars, lids and sugar and get down to the deliciously sweet smelling task of jam making, (the weather actually got worse as the day went on which is testified by our progressively darker and darker pictures! Sorry about that folks! 🙂 )
When it comes to making strawberry jam we have tried many many recipes, and never really found one that we truly-uly love, so instead we tend to go with the flow and do our own thing. Every one you meet who makes Jam will tell you their own tried and tested tricks, so we thought it would be fun to share our recipe into the mix, and add in any tips we have learned from experience.
So, without further ado, lets get started!
makes around 4 standard jam jars (340g each) full
Strawberries – 1kg in weight after they have been prepared: We actually started with 3 400g punnets, which after wastage and hulling them left us with 1 kg. So, aim to buy 1.2kg, which should give you a total of 1 kg after they are prepared. We also usually buy our strawberries a couple of months ahead of time and pop them in the freezer until we are ready to use them. Then, either on the day we want them or the night before we take them out and let them defrost a little to make them easier to hull. They can still be cold when you use them (they don’t need to be room temperature) but they don’t want to be totally freezer hard. Don’t be alarmed when they defrost if they are a bit squishy. They still cook up good.
1 kg Jam Sugar – we tend to use the Tate and Lyle Fairtrade Jam Sugar. Jam sugar is just sugar which has extra pectin added. If you can’t find any jam sugar locally, you can instead use pure cane sugar and add in your own pectin. Pectin is a natural polysaccharide which occurs in most fruits, and which allows the jam to set without being too runny. Depending on which fruit you are using for jam making, you will need to add varying amounts of pectin (if your jam sugar doesn’t have any in already). We are definitely not experts on this subject; we always use the pre-pectined sugar, so on this one we are going to direct you over to PickYourOwn.org, a super informative webpage on pectin and jam making, which should help to clarify that side of things a little (they are also a really good resource for finding local grow your own farms in the US!).
Juice of 1 lemon
4 empty jam jars with lids
1) Strawberry Prep – First you will want to prep your punnets of strawberries. Give them a good rinse in cold water, then using a small kitchen knife carefully cut out the green top and the hull (the small white core which runs around halfway down the strawberry). We like our jam to have big old strawberries in it once it is cooked, so we leave our fruit whole, but if you wanted smaller pieces now is the time to chop those berries up a bit.
At this point you also want to put a small freezer proof plate in the freezer to get super cold. You are going to need it in a little while to check your jam is set.
2) Sterilize Your Jars – We do this by filling our biggest pan 3/4 full with very rapidly boiling water, then carefully adding our jars and lids (making sure they are all totally submersed) and letting them boil for at least ten minutes in super hot water. We then carefully take them out of the water with a clean pair on tongs, making sure not to put the tongs inside the jar or inside the lid where the jam is going to go, and place them onto a clean tea towel, right side up, to dry a little before putting the jam in them. You shouldn’t need to actually dry them as the water should be so hot that it will evaporate within a couple of minutes of being out of the pan. Another equally effective method of sterilization is to wash your jars well in warm soapy water, and pop them in the oven at a medium heat for 5 minutes.
3) Sugary Lemony Goodness – Next you want to pop your strawberries in a large saucepan. Add the entire bag of jam sugar, and the juice of one lemon to the pan with the strawberries. The lemon juice adds extra pectin, which is helpful, especially if your strawberries are very ripe, when their natural pectin will be a bit less than under-ripe fruit (also, fear not, it doesn’t make your jam lemony at all).
4) Stirring and Cooking – Give your strawberries, sugar and lemon juice a good stir to mix them all thoroughly together. Then put your pan on fairly low heat, and let it gently cook until the sugar has dissolved. You can give it a gentle stir now and then, but if you like whole strawberries in your jam, you want to be careful not to break them up too much with over stirring.
5) Boiling – Once your sugar has dissolved you can turn the heat up to high and let the jam boil vigorously at a strong rolling boil for 10 minutes. Don’t worry about any white foam which gathers on top, you are going to get rid of this after the boil.
6) Testing – After 10 minutes is up, you should take your now cold plate out of the freezer. Using a teaspoon, carefully (so that you don’t burn yourself, hot jam is like molten lava!) spoon a little jam onto the cold plate. Leave the jam for a minute to cool then use your finger push a line through the jam. If the jam surface beings to wrinkle up and the line you have drawn doesn’t fill back in with runny jam, your jam is finished cooking and you should remove it from the heat. If the jam is still very liquid, and runs to fill in the line you have drawn, it is still not set and needs cooking for longer. Leave your jam on the heat, wipe your plate and pop it back in the freezer to cool for two minutes, and try again. Usually our jam needs to boil for 15 minutes before it is good to go, but it depends how ripe your strawberries are, so best to start checking after 10 minutes, otherwise you risk over-caramelizing your jam and the sugars getting too dark.
7) Cooling and Bottling – Once you are happy that your jam is cooked, take it off the heat and using a large tablespoon, gently skim off the white foam on the top of the jam. Leave it in the pan for 5 – 10 minutes to cool slightly then, very carefully, spoon your jam into the jars. We use a jam funnel to help a little bit, but you could manage without if you had a steady hand with a ladle. Make sure to fill your jars up to the very very top, and then carefully pop the lid on. Ideally, if you have a good seal on a full jar, you should hear your jars pop closed about half an hour later, as the jam cools.
If you plan on keeping your jam in storage for a real long time placing a square of waxed paper over the top of your jars before adding your lids will help keep things preserved for longer (we didn’t bother as we know it won’t last that long!)
Ta dah! Finished. We find that the jam progressively sets and thickens over the next 24 hours, so it is best to leave it if you can possibly manage for a day. But, if you are anything like us, you will get the urge to bust out some scones and enjoy it there and then.
Luckily for us, it just so happens that our local grocery store had a whole shelf of blueberries on sale this weekend for 10p per punnet! We couldn’t resist so picked up an armful of punnets (16 at the last count) and popped them in the freezer, so you can bet we have another day of jam making fun coming up soon! We’ve never tried making jam with blueberries, but as always, we will share the adventure as we go along!
Hope your all having a lovely day. I’m off to have another scone. Yummy!
P.S. As ever there’s a print and go version of the recipe here without the pictures to save a lil hassle and ink: Sam and Phil’s Strawberry Jam