Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Strawberry Jam

Some time ago, Thomas Dux were selling strawberries for an incredibly low price: just $1 per 250g punnet. Ordinarily it just isn't viable to make your own jam, but when you get your fruit that cheaply, it only costs about $10 to make 4 jars- bargain. You'll find that about 8 punnets of fruit, or 2 kilos, is enough to make 4 jars. Obviously, you'll have to discard the greenery or any berries that are mouldy, so you'll end up with about 1.75 kilos, give or take.

Traditionally jam is made with equal parts of sugar and fruit. Personally, I find this combination a little too sweet. I opt for about 3 parts sugar to 4 parts fruit. If you can, use Jam sugar, as it contains a little pectin to help the jam set. Strawberries are not particularly high in pectin, so they need a helping hand. If you can't find jam sugar, add some Jam setta or pectin, according to the instructions on the packet.

Before you begin, sterilise your jars. I put the jars and lids through a dishwasher, then into a low oven to ensure they are completely dry. You can, instead, boil the jars for several minutes in a large pot, then remove to a tray and into the oven to dry. Be very careful not touch the inside of the jars or lids- you do not want to contaminate the jars after sterilising.

Wash your fruit well, drain thoroughly and put into a large pot with the sugar. If you like your jam chunky like me, then leave your fruit whole. If, on the other hand, you like a very pureed jam, chop your strawberries finely before adding to the sugar. Leave for a good half hour, stirring occasionally, to allow the strawberries to macerate and the sugar to dissolve. Put the pan on the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and, using a slotted spoon, remove the scum/impurities that appears on the surface, ensuring that the finished product is beautifully clear.

Stir the mixture occasionally and continue removing the scum from the surface until the jam reaches 105 degrees. At this point, remove a spoonful carefully from the pot onto a small plate. Leave the jam on the plate for a minute to cool, then run your finger through the centre to see if it has set. It shouldn't be runny, nor should it be solid: just a soft set jelly. The line you create with your finger should remain without the jam on either side oozing back into the centre. If it is still very runny, keep boiling and testing until it reaches a desirable consistency. The whole process may take up to half an hour, depending on the quantity of jam you are boiling. Immediately pour the jam into the sterilised jars- the heat will further ensure that the jar and the jam is free of bacteria. The jam and jars will be very hot- take care not to burn yourself. Using a tea towel, screw the lid carefully onto the jar. Leave the jam to cool thoroughly, then store in your pantry. They are ready for use as soon as the jam has cooled. The jam should keep for considerable time, so long as everything has been thoroughly sterilised. Enjoy with some fresh scones and double cream for a delectable afternoon tea. Bon appetit!


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