Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Tea with jam and bread... with jam.... Preserving exploits part 2 - Strawberry jam

As part of convalescing after last week's resurgence of the Migraine from hell (TM) I spent a few days taking it easy, wearing my sunglasses around the house to rest my eyes, ignoring the Le Mans 24 hours race, and having regular naps. Thus meaning that come Saturday afternoon I could take the opportunity to make jam with Mark's Mum.
A lot of the process of jam making is similar to what we did with the Seville Marmalade earlier this year, so have a read of that post too, but I'll try to include the basics here. We're working in imperial measures, but it's important (essential maybe) to remember that fruit is going to react differently depending on where you got it from.  We were lucky enough to pick our own (well I wasn't well enough, so HUGE thanks to Mark's Mum and Dad for doing that for me) and it was following a dry spell, if you were picking today, the fruit would be completely different to work with because of all the rain we've had over the last 48 hours. It's those things that make a difference which mean that jam is done much of the time, by eye. You'll find no sugar thermometers here.
3lb strawberries, hulled
3lb caster sugar
juice of 2 lemons
This made about 7 half pound jars (250grams or thereabouts) of strawberry jam.

Put the hulled strawberries in a colander and rinse briefly. Put straight in a preserving pan and bring to the boil until pulpy. This is where you need to use your eyes, the strawberries need to have softened but not to an apple sauce type mush, you still want them to retain their shape as individual fruit.
Now we left them overnight, and returned to them the next day.
Put a saucer in the fridge
Add the lemon juice to your pan, bring the strawberries back to a rolling boil and add the sugar. As with the marmalade we used regular granulated sugar.
As you're stirring, run a knob of butter around the pan just above the level of the jam - this will stop the sugar crystallising on the pan and not where it should be doing it's job, in the jam.
Once the sugar has been added, stir continuously until it has dissolved, you can hear and feel when this is the case, but it took about 10 minutes I would say.
Now, boil fairly rapidly (be careful for spitting jam as it's hot and burns) for 15 minutes, still stirring all the while.
Remove your pan from the heat (move the pan, don't turn the heat off), and test to see if you're at setting point. This is really straightforward. Take the saucer out of the fridge, and drop a teaspoonful of jam on it. Leave it for a minute or so and then run your finger over the surface of the jam. If the surface wrinkles, you've reached setting point. If not, it's not a crisis, return the pan to the heat (this is why you leave it on) and boil for another 5 minutes before repeating this process. The jam will reach setting point just stay patient. It also flakes on the back of the spoon and on the sides of the pan, but I'm not good enough yet to notice this, so the timing and saucer is easier if you're just beginning.
Add a knob of butter to get rid of any scum.
Use a jam funnel, to fill sterilised jars, fuller than you think. Put lids on them. If you don't have lids, top with waxed discs, and then a cellophane wrapper that you've dipped in a saucer of water (this makes it dry taut)
If you have a little bit left that won't fill a whole jar, then pop it in a cup or spare jar, let it cool and top with some clingfilm. Use this for your breakfast over the next couple of days. Demand people you love try some.
Label up with what it is, and when you made it, but essentially there you have it - strawberry jam.

I can honestly say that preserving is up there with bread making for me as a relaxing and lovely way to spend an afternoon. And it's so rewarding, seeing all the pots of jam in your cupboard. Not that I have a jam cupboard. Nope. Not me.

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