Strawberry Fields Forever…

The colour of autumn leaves and this time of the year always make me look forward to one thing… pickling and preserving and generally popping things in jars.

So today, strawberry jam.

I was lucky to get enough strawberries out of my latest batch to make any jam. I think they had been put away damp and were mildewy and soft so I retrieved some of the best strawberries and set about making some of my finest jam…

To make jam, you don’t need anything too specific or professional. I like to use a large pan and you’ll need it when the fruit begins to boil so a casserole dish or perhaps even a Le Creuset if you own one (and if you do, you are exceptionally lucky). The next thing you will need is a handful, or more, of clean jars which you will need to sterilise before putting your jam in them. You may want to use a funnel and a ladle to get the jam into your jars with the minimum of mess and you will also need to purchase actual ‘jam sugar’, this contains added pectin to help your jam set.

To make 4/5 jars:

1kg of fresh hulled strawberries, 1kg of jam sugar (with added pectin), 1 squeezed lemon’s worth of juice.

1) Place a clean saucer in the freezer with which to test the set of the jam.

2) Take your clean jars and place in a deep roasting tin. Pour boiling water around the jars to about an inch thickness and place in an oven at 180 degrees C.

3) Place the strawberries and the lemon juice in your pan. Put on a low heat on the hob and stir as the lemon juice breaks down the outside of the strawberries.

4) When the strawberries are soft but still whole and the juice released is hot, add the sugar slowly to the fruit. Stir in carefully, ensuring the sugar is fully disolved and then raise the heat until the mixture is at a ‘rolling boil’. You will need to constantly stir the jam as it boils or it will stick to the bottom of the pan. The ‘rolling boil’ will be quite obvious as the juice on the 0utside of the pan will roll into the middle in a ring.

5) When the jam has reached a rolling boil, lower the temperature. Place a drip of the jam on the frozen saucer and tilt the plate. If the jam slides down the plate it will need longer but if it appears set and doesn’t move, you are ready to put it in the jars!

6) Leave the jam to stand for 10 minutes off the heat

7) Remove the jars from the oven and, using a very thick oven glove, remove the jars from the roasting tin. They will be scaldingly hot at this point. Whilst still scaldingly hot, place the funnel in the jar and pour the jam into the jar until a centimetre beneath the rim of the jar or just above the ‘shoulders’ of the jar.

8 ) Place the filled jam jars in a cool place for 2 hours till cooler and then tighten the lids on the jars and avoid moving for another 12 hours to leave the jam time to set.

– If you find the strawberries rise to the top of the jar, rather than dispersed evenly through the jar, you haven’t left the jam to stand for long enough off the heat.

– Ensure the jars are bone dry when adding the jam, this will stop the jam from forming mould.

– Ensure the skins of the strawberries are properly broken down when stirring the jam on the heat as these release pectin when they break down which will help the jam to set.

9) Eat on hot buttered toast!!

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