Last week we had glorious sunshine and warm weather and I was able to spend a very enjoyable morning picking strawberries in a pick-your-own farm not too far from where I live. The strawberries tasted wonderful, so sweet and a vibrant red colour all the way through. The smell that surrounds you as you crouch down amongst the rows of plants, lifting the leaves in the hunt of the ripe red berries, is amazing. I was having such a good time that I got a bit carried away and picked rather more than is physically possible for me, or indeed my family, to eat fresh. My mum has always talked about wanting to try making homemade strawberry jam and as we had such an abundance of fresh tasty strawberries, turning them into jam seemed the ideal solution.
In order for jam to set, you need pectin, which is naturally occurring in all fruits, although in different quantities. Unfortunately strawberries only contain small amounts of pectin, meaning it won’t set into a firm spreadable jam on its own. Thanks to the cleverness of science you can now buy preserving sugar which is sugar with added fruit pectin, specially made for jam making. Some shops are also now starting to sell little sachets of powdered pectin, which can be used with normal sugar to help a jam gel/set. Lemons also naturally contain high amounts of pectin so adding the juice of one of those will also help.
For the strawberry jam I used a pectin sachet with normal sugar and it did help the liquid produce more of a gel, although the overall jam was still softly set. However, as I have said in the past, this is how I prefer my jam so I was more than happy with the results. The jam turned out a deep glossy red colour and had a fantastic fresh strawberry aroma that wafted up the minute I unscrewed the lid. The strawberries retained their cut shape, although were tender enough to squish into a fruity puree when spread across some bread or toast.
If you are wanting to make your own jams using fruit that’s low in pectin then it’s best to try and combine it with a fruit that’s high in pectin. This is why you might often see blackberry and apple jam, for not only do they taste good together but the high pectin apple helps set and low pectin blackberries.
Fruits which are naturally high in pectin include:
Lemons, cooking apples, blackcurrants, redcurrants, gooseberries, quinces, limes, grapefruits, oranges, some plums
Fruits which are low in pectin include:
Blackberries, cherries, strawberries, pears, rhubarb, figs
Sunny Strawberry Jam
1kg fresh strawberries
1kg preserving sugar (with added pectin)
OR 1kg granulated sugar and 1 sachet pectin
Destalk the strawberries and cut them into halves or quarters depending on their size.
Place into a large saucepan with the juice from the lemon. Heat until simmering and the fruit has started to soften and release its juices, about 15 minutes.
Add the preserving sugar or sugar and pectin, stirring until dissolved.
Allow to boil for 20 minutes, stirring every so often to prevent the fruit from catching on the bottom of the pan.
Meanwhile, place 5 clean dry jam jars and their lids into a cold oven. Heat to 120C and then allow them to heat for at least 10 minutes to sterilise them before using.
Test if the jam is ready by placing a small spoonful of the jam onto a saucer and placing in the fridge for 3 minutes. Once cool, run your finger through the jam and if it ripples and leaves a clear path, then it is ready. If not, then allow to boil for a further 5 minutes before testing again.
Once ready, remove the jam from the heat and the jars from the oven. Carefully ladle the hot jam into the hot jars and screw on the lids tightly. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from the heat and to give you a good grip.
Allow to cool at room temperature before storing in a cool dark place until required. The seal button in the lids will suddenly pop back down as the jam cools, as a sterile vacuum is created within the jar. They will give a loud ‘pop’ when this happens, so don’t be alarmed.
Once open, store in the fridge.
Makes 4 – 5 jars