Strawberry Jam, three ways

HarvestWe’re long-term lovers of raspberry jam in this house, and while we were living in Belfast, we always had a jar from Wee Buns on hand (find Mary Anne Mackle’s jam and other delicious treats at the St. George’s Market each Saturday!). For my fellow raspberry jam lovers, I know you’re probably thinking that strawberry jam is the stuff of individual plastic packets sitting beside hotel toasters – over-set, lacking in the brightness that fresh strawberries bring and always a sad compensation for the dry scone you’re about to smear with it. I get it. I was the same.

However, we have strawberries galore in Scotland, and I was excited about finding a way to turn our harvest into something great.
Strawberries closeHullsThe recipes below come from a lot of fretting, over-researching and self-doubt about how to turn many pounds of ripe strawberries into something we’d want to eat for the rest of the season, bring a bit of summer into the colder winter months and give as gifts along the way. You see, I had never made jam before. I come from a land where jam-making is full of ominous threats of diseases to wipe out your whole family, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to trust what seemed to be all around me – a whole society whose jam-making traditions rely on clean materials, the fruits of the season and an occasional wax paper lining. I decided to give it a whirl.

What I learned – as I moved from reading-everything-I-could-find to tasting and testing, to waiting a little longer for the set I liked – was to allow myself to enjoy the process. What a wonderful thing, to be able to make strawberries sing long after their season has waned.Jams on the edgeI also learned how deeply satisfying it is to have your own jars of jam filling your cupboard and available to replace the soon-empty jar in the fridge. We have been enjoying ours in yogurt, on scones, topping warmed Camembert, and smeared on croissants and toast. Some day soon I’ll find an excuse to make these beautiful rye crumble bars by Molly Wizenberg via Kim Boyce, and I’ll let you know how they turn out.

Strawberry Jam, 3 ways

The first recipe is from A Sweet Spoonful, which she shared from Happy Girl Kitchen Co. We used this recipe as a jumping off point to make both a strawberry lemon jam and a more savory Sherry vinegar and black pepper version.

Whole strawberries

Sugar to macerate

After 24 hrs

Mashing strawberries

We loved this jam, and I loved how simple it was to make. After washing and hulling the strawberries, all you need to do is place them in a deep, heavy saucepan with all the sugar and lemon juice and leave to macerate in their own juices overnight. The following day, you mash this mixture a bit to break up some of the larger strawberries, bring the whole thing to boil and get ready for wonderful things to happen.

I didn’t have enough lemon juice on hand (despite advice to be prepared), so I added about 1/4 cup lemon juice and included the remaining lemon rinds overnight. We used a mixture of preserving sugar and caster sugar, because that’s what we had in the house. It sat for 24 hours, and it took a full hour to boil and get to the consistency we liked. We like a softer set of jam, and this worked beautifully.

Strawberry Jam 1

Strawberry Jam 2

Strawberry Jam 3

Strawberry Jam 4

Strawberry Jam 5

We kept nearly 2 jars’ worth of jam back from the total recipe and added 1/4 cup sherry vinegar and about 2 teaspoons fresh cracked pepper to the remaining jam in the saucepan. This resulted in a more savory jam that we’ll use with creamy cheeses, like Camembert, and crackers.

We found this recipe produced a lot of foam, most of which I kept back in a small bowl. By the end of the hour, much of the foam had settled into a very nice syrup, which we used syrup for drinks and cocktails throughout the week with a lot of success.

Strawberry and Lemon Jam
Adapted from A Sweet Spoonful, originally Happy Girl Kitchen Co.

14 cups / 2.1kg whole strawberries
4 cups / 800g sugar
1/3 cup / 80ml lemon juice
Optional addition: Sherry vinegar and generous amount of black pepper

Makes 4 medium jars

Wash and hull strawberries, allowing to dry thoroughly. Place the strawberries in a deep, heavy bottomed saucepan, cover with sugar and lemon juice and leave to macerate overnight (18-24 hours). The sugar will slowly work its way down through the strawberries, so don’t be tempted to stir at the start (then it will all settle to the bottom too early).

When ready to make the jam, wash 4 x 400g jars in hot, soapy water, drain well and place in a pre-heated oven (150 C / 300 F) on a baking tray lined with a kitchen towel. Wash lids and place in a small saucepan of simmering water for a few minutes. Remove and place on a clean towel to be cool enough to touch when ready. Place one or two plates in the freezer to have on hand to test the setting point.

Boil until the strawberry mixture reaches your desired setting point (10-30 minutes, depending on your strawberries and time). To determine this, place a small spoonful on a prepared plate (from the freezer), leave for 30 seconds and tilt the plate to see if the jam is the consistency you like. If too runny, continue to boil, stirring to make sure the jam isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan (be careful, the jam is very hot!). You can also check for the setting point by lifting the spatula out of the mixture and watching for the jam to run off the spatula more like a sheet, rather than as a quick liquid.

When the jam has reached the desired consistency, carefully remove the sterilized jars and, with the help of a wide mouth funnel, ladle the jam into the prepared jars. With a clean paper towel, wipe any jam that got on the edges of the jars and seal tightly with a new, clean lid. Set aside to cool completely. If the lids pop down, store in a dark, cool cupboard for up to a year. If they don’t seal, enjoy from the fridge.

Note: the serving size above (4 medium jars) is for the total recipe. Hold back as much as you like for the vinegar/black pepper recipe, and adjust the amount of vinegar you add accordingly.

Strawberry, Sherry Vinegar and Black Pepper Jam

Prepare your jam as above, up until you reach your desired setting point.

Add 1/4-1/2 cup (60-120ml) Sherry vinegar and a generous amount of cracked black pepper, tasting with the help of a chilled plate from the freezer as you go along. We used 1/4 cup of vinegar for 2 jars of jam, but play around with the proportion you like.

Sherry vinegar and black pepper

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
Inspired by The Patterned Plate

500g (5 cups) chopped rhubarb
500g (2.5 cups) halved strawberries
500g (2.5 cups) sugar (we used preserving sugar the first time, jam sugar the second time)

Makes 2 x 400 g jars and a bit left over for the refrigerator

Mix fruit and sugar in a large bowl and leave overnight to macerate. This allows the natural pectin in the fruit to help the set of the jam (I left mine for 18 hrs, thepatternedplate left hers for only 2 hrs but used 750 g sugar).

When ready to make the jam, wash jars in hot, soapy water, drain well and place in a warm oven (150 C / 300 F) on a baking tray lined with a kitchen towel. Wash lids and place in a small saucepan of simmering water for a few minutes. Remove and place on a clean towel to be cool enough to touch when ready. Place one or two plates in the freezer to have on hand to test the setting point.

Place the fruit and sugar mixture in a heavy bottomed, non-reactive pan and bring to a slow boil to melt all the remaining sugar crystals. If desired, include 1 Tablespoon lemon juice. Bring to a roiling boil for 10-30 minutes and stir frequently to make sure the fruit is not sticking at the bottom. If desired, remove the foam that forms on the top of the boil (and reserve for cocktails!). If you don’t remove the foam, your jam may look a little cloudier than you are used to.

On setting points, The Patterned Plate says:

If you have a thermometer, then setting point will be reached at 104-105deg C. If not, then when you see the mixture thicken and the bubbles are bigger and noisier, turn down the heat and put a small blob on the frozen saucer. In half a minute, run your fingertip from one end of the blob to the other. If you see wrinkles on the surface, then setting point has been reached. If not, then boil for a bit longer, checking for setting point frequently.

I stood over the jam boiling for the whole time. My first (many) looks at the saucer test showed it needed more time, and I could tell by the time it was actually reducing that I’d been far too early with the first few. It took my mixture 25 minutes to reduce to a level I thought I’d like. I went with the drip/sheet test off the spatula instead of relying too heavily on the saucer test. I prefer jam that is softer (see above re: hotel toasters), so I was cautious about getting a heavy set after all that work.

When the jam has reached the desired consistency, carefully remove the sterilized jars and, with the help of a wide mouth funnel, ladle the jam into the prepared jars. With a clean paper towel, wipe any jam that got on the edges of the jars and seal tightly with a new, clean lid. Set aside to cool completely. If the lids pop down, store in a dark, cool cupboard for up to a year. If they don’t seal, enjoy from the fridge.

Strawberries and rhubarb

Strawberries and Rhubarb macerating

S&R jam and ladles

S&R in jars

Extra notes:
We loved this jam so much the first week that we made the same recipe again the second week. This time, I used 750g rhubarb, 750g strawberries, 750g (jam) sugar. This was left for 15 hours, and I added nearly 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice when it started to boil. This resulted in the same, delicious jam.

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