So, in the lead-up to Christmas I decided to try and make some of my own gifts. I feel terribly virtuous saving on all sorts of things, money, packaging, you name it. And of course food makes some of the best gifts (in short – it’s fun then it’s gone). I did some easy things like vanilla sugar and vanilla essence (did I mention I obtained a heap of vanilla beans?). But then, the silly fool I am, I had to do something more challenging – jam.
I’ve made four types of jam now, all ready to be prettied up as gifts for Christmas. And although I’m sure you’re all keen to hear about the more adventurous ones, I’m gonna start with a classic.
My little strawberry patch has been mentioned before around here, and this year it’s producing better than ever. And what better thing to make home-made strawberry jam with than home-made strawberries? It’s double domestic!
So you start out with three cups or so of strawberries. A lot of recipes out there for strawberry jam will ask you to sit the washed and cut strawberries with however much sugar you’re using overnight. This is called macerating them, and its basic function is to break down the cell walls of the strawberries so that all the juice comes out. I didn’t do this though because I’ve been just harvesting a handful of strawberries a day, washing and chopping them, and popping them in the freezer ’til I had enough. Freezing the strawberries also breaks down their cell walls as ice crystals form inside them, so macerating them isn’t necessary any more.
At this point you’ll want to pop a little plate into the freezer so it can get nice and cold. Well use that later. It’s now too that I put my jars in a pot to boil away and get all nice and sterile.
Now put your thawed/macerated strawberries in a wide pan with a cup of sugar and the juice of half a lemon.
Cook cook cook on medium-almost-high heat for ten minutes, and if any scum forms skim it off with a spoon. It’s not dangerous or bad or anything, it just doesn’t look very pretty.
After ten minutes get out your little plate from the freezer and put a little blob of your jam on it. Give it thirty seconds then run your finger through it. If it’s the texture of (thinnish) jam, hurray, you’re done! If it’s not really congealing at all and just seems like a syrup – that’s what it is. Pop the plate back in the freezer and keep cooking for five more minutes then try again.
Now’s the time to put the super hot jam into jars. Try not to splash little drops on your fiancé’s face – they don’t like that. Also try not to put more in a jar than there is space in said jar – not recommended.
Alright, alright. Your jam is in your jars, you’ve wiped any spills off the rims and put the lids on. Now what do you do? You’ve got two options. The safer, more widely preferred and recommended thing to do is to water bath process your jam (instructions and info here). The lazier, more risky, way is to pour the jam in when it’s still really super hot, screw on the lid nice and tight and then quickly flipping the jar upside down for five minutes. This is the one I chose. I’ve got my reasons, but you probably shouldn’t do it this way.
And voila! Jam!
3 cups of washed, hulled and very roughly chopped strawberries
1 cup sugar
Juice of half a lemon
Put a small plate in the freezer and sterilise your jars.
Put everything in a wide pan.
Cook on medium-almost-high heat for 10 minutes, skimming any scum that forms.
Put a small blob of your mixture onto your little plate to check the consistency. If it’s still runny, cook for 5 more minutes then try again. If it seems like the consistency of a loose jam you’re done cooking.
Pour your jam into your jars and process.