Sunday, 25 August 2013

Strawberry Jam

UPDATE August 2015 - see my updated strawberry jam post here.

British people are often criticised for apologising too often, making a mockery of the word, causing to it lose all meaning. Perhaps these people have simply misunderstood what the word is actually referring to. Have they ever thought that it's a lot more efficient to say the work sorry then the sentence 'I'm sorry for causing you any discomfort during my recent misdemanour when I left my shoes in that awkward place where everybody steps so you stubbed your toe big time and spent five miuntes hopping around trying to fight off the tears'? Though to behonest, my dad doesn't say either the long or the short version of this! Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe we are all guilty of saying things we don't really mean. I hope not.

Whatever an individuals reason for apologising, sincere or otherwise, I make no apologies whatsoever for this recipe. I know there are a million and one recipes out there for strawberry jam. I know that a lot of peple insist that you need a ratio of 50:50 fruit to sugar at the start for a good jam. I even know  that technically my jam isn't jam because for the word to properly apply the end product must be at least 60% sugar according to this BBC article. I found this article really interesting because I am a nerd at heart and like reading those sorts of things. I did feel rather indignant though that somebody might not accept that what had me dancing around the kitchen in excitement while it was cooking is not in fact jam. I whole-heartedly agree with jam-maker and writer Gloria Nicol that the word ought to be used because it is such a lovely one.

The article also talks about how changing the ratio of sugar disrupts the setting ability of the jam (yes, JAM, not fuit spread!) and that an English jam is thick set. I think I must have a different idea of what is thick set then because a lot of jams you can buy in the shops slop about when you shake them. Now let me tell you I've had several jammy mishaps in the past. I think the first batch I made was two years ago and it had a really nice flavour but I boiled it for far too long at the magic jam temperature which made it rather solid. The next batch had a better texture but I put too much bramley apple as a pectin source so it was a touch too sour for my mum's tastes. After that I made a batch that was so thin you could drink it followed by some which I added far too much lemon juice so it was almost bitter. I was beginning to despair because I couldn't get it quite right but there is something so fun and alchemical about jam making that I couldn't give up. Last year I made this bramble berry jam which the recipe stated less than a 50:50 ratio and it tasted fantastic. It wasn't strawberry jam though. Strawberries are my all time favourite fruit, tied with chocolate for the honour of favourite food. I had to find a perfect jam recipe. Finally I've managed it.

What makes it so good? First and foremost, there is a strong strawberry flavour. This tricks me into feeling that all the goodness is retained from the fruit so it doesn't live up to the reputation that jam isn't good for you. Second, there is the perfect set. It isn't drinkable and it can be spread without churning up everything it comes into contact with without being warmed in the microwave first. Yes, I've been there. Not fun. Third, there aren't whole pieces of fruit in it. I'm not a fan of lumps in jams or yoghurts. The mashing prior to cooking solved this. I took inspiration from this recipe here for that, which brings me onto my final point. It is below the 50:50 ratio and still tastes amazing, spreads fantastically and at still beats mine and Mum's absolute favourite shop bought strawberry conserve (their word not mine) from M&S. So far I've tested this gorgeous stuff on Ryvita, toasted muffins, crumpets and on top of my healthy eggy bread. Slightly defeating the point on that last one but it was worth every mouthful. So before I can rant any more about the nations laws on nonsensical food term definitions (I'm pretty sure in days gone by sugar was very expensive and yet preserving still went on so how can Defra argue against that?) let me leave you with the recipe. I've got plans to turn it into something fit for the August Calendar Cakes challenge but if I don't make the deadline then I will have to save some to enter into my own baking challenge which I will have up and running very soon. Go make some jam. Just make sure you buy extra strawberries if you follow my one for the pot two for me rule!

print recipe

Strawberry Jam
A gorgeous fruity strawberry jam made with a touch less sugar yet maitaining the perfect flavour and texture.
  • 600g destalked strawberries
  • 353g granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
1. Rinse the strawberries and chop into pieces. Place in a bowl along with the sugar and lemon juice and use a potato masher to create a pulp.2. Wash a few small jars with hot soapy water, rinse and set upside down on a baking tray. Heat the jars in an oven set at about 150C for 10-15 mins to sterilise. Put a few saucers into the fridge to chill.3. Pour the pulp into a large pan set over a medium/low heat e.g. bottom of a pressure cooker and set a sugar thermometer inside. Stir the mixture regularly and when the sugar has dissolved turn up the heat to high.4. Still stirring regularly to prevent bits burniing on the bottom, bring the mixture to a rolling boil and once it reaches 106C on the thermometer maintain for a couple of minutes then remove from the heat. Place a teaspoon worth of jam on one of the saucers and put back in the fridge for 30 seconds. After this time, if you push your finger through the jam and it wrinkles, it is ready.5. Pour the jam into the sterilised jars filling right to the top. Cover with discs of waxed paper or circles of baking paper. Pour boiling water over the jar lids then when cool enough to handle, screw on tight and leave to cool.

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