I find it almost impossible to walk past a punnet of local strawberries without putting them straight into my trolley..
Just the look and smell of Strawberries bring back so many memories – I remember as a child, my Dad coming home from work with a bag of Wexford strawberries that he’d bought in Moore Street near his office in town. The juice had leaked through the paper bag as he’d carried them home to us.. And when our daughter was little, one of our favourite things to do was to go to the local ‘pick-your-own’ farm to get strawberries, raspberries and vegetables fresh from the fields. Forget watching cartoons – this was real-life fun, as far as she was concerned. She used to plonk herself down in the Strawberry fields with a basket and get stuck in..I always felt a bit guilty that she appeared to eat more than she picked! I have a great image in my head of that wee small face smiling up at me, with a scrawled red mouth – like badly put-on lipstick – from the strawberry juice. Great days..
Back then, we usually just ate the strawberries as they were – possibly with a dollop of cream – when we got home; or in a layered into a Victoria Sponge, with cream and Strawberry jam, for extra ‘strawberry-ness’.
Strawberry Jam was essential in the Victoria sponge, and if you’ve never tried my version of Victoria Sponge, kindly shared by Lucy, here’s the excellent recipe: http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/lucys-victoria-sponge/
You’re getting more than one recipe today, as I have the perfect recipe for Strawberry Jam here for you too..:)
- A large non-metallic bowl, big enough to hold all your strawberries, plus the sugar.
- Your largest saucepan
- a long-handled spoon
- a couple of small side plates (not your best china please!)
- A sugar thermometer, if you have one.
- A Jam funnel, if you have one – they are really inexpensive, and make filling jam jars so easy!
- Sterilised jam jars and lids – this smallish recipe makes about 3 or 4 x 450g jars. Although if you’re thinking about giving some away, perhaps 6-7 smaller jars would be best.
- Waxed discs – optional if you’re putting a screw top on, but see Potting Up below.
INGREDIENTS: This recipe will give you 3-4 x450g jars of jam
- 1Kg fresh – but not over-ripe – strawberries – wiped, not washed, see NOTES – with a damp cloth, and hulled. Larger ones cut in half, or quarters if monstrous – which some of mine were today.
- 750g Jam Sugar – this is important; Jam sugar has Pectin added to help set the jam – Strawberries have no natural Pectin. Don’t confuse it with Preserving Sugar.
- Juice of 2 Lemons
- Good knob of butter
- Put the cut, wiped and hulled Strawberries into the bowl – add the sugar (they will be swamped by it!) and turn them over to make sure each piece is coated with sugar.
- Leave to one side, uncovered for 12 hours or overnight. I put a net cake cover over mine to keep inquisitive critters out.
- The next morning, the strawberries should be floating in a sea of red juice, and have dissolved a lot of the sugar.
- Put the side plates into the fridge or freezer.
- Put your clean pots and lids into a warm – 100C or so, oven.
- Transfer the Strawberries and sugar into the saucepan, and put it on a gentle heat.
- Stir until the sugar has dissolved fully – check the back of the spoon – and listen for a rasping sound for undissolved crystals.
- As soon as you’re sure that all the sugar has dissolved – scrape down any wayward crystals on the edge of the saucepan using a pastry brush dipped in boiling water – and make sure that they too have dissolved – then add the Lemon juice, and bring the whole lot to a rolling boil.
- Once you reach the rolling boil, toss in the butter.
- Boil for 10 minutes, then test. If you have a sugar thermometer, boil until the temperature reaches 105C, and then test.
- Take the saucepan off the heat.
- Put a spoonful of the jam onto the chilled plate and leave it for a several minutes, then push some of it gently with your finger, and if the surface wrinkles, and the rest of the jam doesn’t rush back into that space, then it’s ready. If it’s not ready, put the jam back onto the boil, give it 5 more minutes, then test again, repeating until you’ve reached setting point.
- Use a stainless steel spoon to skim any scum that has risen to the surface and discard this. Do this only towards the end of cooking, rather than constantly during the boiling stage, to reduce wastage.
- Once you’re happy with your jam ‘set’ – and it’s totally not the end of the world if it is a little ‘soft-set’ style, aka ‘Runny’ – see picture of my recent Victoria Sponge above 😉 it’s still going to be streets ahead of anything bought..
- Remove the saucepan from the heat, give it one last good stir, and leave it to sit for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes – so that the fruit will stay suspended in the jam, and doesn’t float to the top when you pot it up.
- Using a teaspoon, remove any last bits of scum which are still hanging around – if you’ve used the butter, there won’t be very much at all.
- If you’re using the waxed discs, dip each one into some Whisky before you put it onto the top of the jam
- Using a ladle, and a Jam funnel (buy it once in your life, and thank me forever!!) fill the warmed jars, and cover immediately.
- Label and cover with cute material covers if you like – I often do this, especially if I’m giving some away to
guinea pigslucky friends 😉
- The jam will keep for up to a year, but it’s always better eaten fresh, on scones with some whipped cream http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/home-made-scones/
Or even on some fresh bread and butter – sometimes the simplest things are the best!
- The jam should be refrigerated once opened.
- The idea of dipping the waxed discs into neat Whiskey comes from my good friend, and talented cook Mrs Norah Brown – her Mother used to do this to reduce the chance of mould; now Norah does it, I do it, and hopefully you’ll carry on this ancient and admirable tradition too!
- Hull your strawberries, then just wipe them with a clean damp cloth or kitchen paper before making the jam – if you wash them they’ll absorb the water and make setting the jam more difficult.
- Do spend time skimming off the scum after cooking to setting point – it’s well worth the time spent, as it rather spoils the look of the jam if there are bits of white in amongst the jam.. a handy hint, from one who knows..
- This recipe can be doubled-up, but don’t over-do it – the jam bubbled up quite alarmingly, even for this small recipe.