Ann Stallard, from Waterhouse Fayre, shows us how to successfully master the art of making strawberry jam.
There are slightly different ways you can make strawberry jam to produce the sort of jam you want to eat. Whether you prefer lots of whole fruit, some whole fruit, or a smooth texture for even spreading.
The ingredients and their quantities remain the same, only the process varies.
Firstly start with 3lb of strawberries, which are clean, dry and have been hulled (this is the hulled weight), the same quantity of sugar and 50ml lemon juice. Personally, I would recommend using jam sugar when making strawberry jam or adding a little pectin. Having made unspeakable amounts of strawberry jam over the last eight years, experience has taught me that the quality of the strawberry varies so much, it is the safest option to ensure a good set and not to end up spoiling the strawberries by overcooking and ending up with brown jam!
If you need to wash the strawberries, then put them in a colander and rinse quickly before hulling. Water that has been absorbed by the fruit will affect the flavour and setting.
The saucepan or preserving pan you are using should be large enough so that when all the ingredients are in it, they only come 1/3 way up, this will ensure you don’t end up with it boiling over or burning yourself. You will need a wooden spoon. You will also need to put 2-3 saucers or similar in your freezer. You will also need clean and warmed jam jars and either new lids or wax disks and old washed lids or greaseproof rounds and string.
If you like your strawberry jam full of whole strawberries, take your preserving pan and layer the strawberries and sugar into it. Leave overnight, this will draw the moisture out of the strawberries and firm them up so they are less likely to break down during cooking. When you start making the jam you need to warm through your ingredients on the lowest heat possible first, add the lemon juice at this stage and be patient, you need the mixture to be warmed through before you increase the heat. When you are able to turn the mixture over with your spoon you can increase the heat to medium to dissolve the sugar.
For some whole or not whole strawberries, take your clean strawberries and lemon juice and warm through gently, again on a low heat, give them an occasional nudge with the spoon.
If you don’t like whole strawberries, then at this point mash them gently with a potato masher. While the strawberries are warming, put your sugar in a roasting dish and warm in the oven at around 120-150C (Gas 3) or bottom of the Aga. This is optional, it just speeds up the dissolving process and will help keep the strawberries whole because you are not stirring as much.
When your strawberries are warmed through, add the sugar and lemon juice, turn the heat up slightly (low to medium) don’t let it boil and let the sugar gently dissolve, stirring occasionally, if your sugar hasn’t been pre-warmed then this process will just take a little longer.
To check if the sugar has dissolved, stir and pull the spoon out and check the back so see if there are any granules. When dissolved, increase the heat and boil for 15-20 minutes. You will feel more resistance when stirring and the bubbles will become more foamy and less airy.
Take the jam off the heat and grab one of your saucers, put a good teaspoonful on the saucer and put it in the fridge for a couple of minutes. When the jam is cold, firstly tip the saucer, the jam should move very slowly down, then run your finger through the centre. It should wrinkle and push up against your finger. If not, return to the heat and boil for a further 5 minutes, and test again.
If you are not using pectin then boil for 20 minutes before you start testing. When the jam is set, if you have followed the whole or part strawberry process, leave your jam for 10 minutes before jarring up as slight cooling will prevent the strawberries rising to the surface too much. Otherwise you can jar up straight away.
Take a clean jug and jam funnel if you have one and have your jars and lids ready. Pour the jam into the jars leaving a gap at the top, fill to just before the screw top section. It is best to lid or put the wax discs on as you go unless you are particularly speedy. If using new lids, turn the jars upside down for a couple of minutes to sterlise the lids.
Leave to cool and set, clear up your mess and eat as soon as you like. Keep in a cool dark place, pantry, kitchen cupboard, etc. Once opened keep either in the fridge or cupboard, but in the summer, it is best in the fridge.