Arguably the “Nation’s Favourite”, Strawberry jam is my preserving nemesis. As June progressed, I braced myself for the annual self-imposed challenge to make the nirvana of jams. Each year I set aside memories of burnt pans and runny, un-set jams, as I am drawn to punnets of glistening strawberries in my local markets.

This year I jumped at the opportunity to spend a day making jam and baking with Miranda Gore Browne, in her home. Miranda was a finalist in the first series of BBC The Great British Bake Off and she is the author of “ Biscuit” , the definitive book of Biscuit recipes. Miranda’s second book, “Bake Me a Cake as Fast as You Can” will be published, by Ebury Press in August.

When I walked into Miranda’s kitchen, designed exquisitely by Chalon I knew it would be hard to leave! After the introductions, and meeting Miranda’s friend Alex we set about tasting the jams we would make; Strawberry jam and Strawberry and Rose jam. I was touched by Miranda’s evaluation of my Strawberry jams, “like childhood in a jar” as they brought back memories of her childhood.

Most varieties of strawberries are low in pectin, which makes Strawberry jam one of the hardest to set. To counteract the low pectin content, I use recipes with pectin stock made from gooseberries or red currants. As a guide, I add 50-100ml of stock to each 450g of fruit. Adding fragrant roses to jam is new for me this year. I don’t grow suitable varieties in my garden, but a florist friend suggested the variety “Extase”. I liked the sound of the misnomer, as it matched how I might feel if I cracked my Strawberry jam challenge this year.

Using Sweet Eve strawberries, generously supplied by Sweet Eve, we prepared the first batch of Strawberry jam. Our cooking source for the day was an AGA. With little of experience of making jam on an AGA, I was impressed by how quickly it softened the strawberries. Once the Red Currant pectin stock was added, a set was reached within 8 minutes. As the jam cooled and set in the jars, Miranda prepared her first bake, fruit scones. With so many recipes for scones, we had the perfect opportunity to discuss the stages of making and baking, and exchanged hints and tips.

After a break for lunch we tackled Strawberry and Rose jam. My recipe included an infusion of rose petals and the addition of rose syrup. Meanwhile, Miranda made a stunning dessert, a Strawberry macaroon cake, drizzled with my rose syrup. I was mortified that it was too fragile to survive a car journey home. I can’t wait to make the recipe, which is in Miranda’s forthcoming book.

We had made Strawberry jam and scones, so it had to be time for a cream tea. Once the photographs had been taken, we could not resist tasting freshly baked, melt in the mouth scones, clotted cream and real jam. I had a fabulous day, learning, laughing and eating the very best bakes and jam. Thanks for having me. Let’s do it again soon!

Strawberry Jam

Makes about 2.25kg (5lb)

1.4kg 3lbs) strawberries, hulled
300ml of pectin stock
1.4kg (3lb) granulated, cane sugar

1. Make the pectin stock by simmering 1kg of red currants, barely covered in water. Mash it thoroughly. Once the fruit is pulpy strain it into a bowl through a sieve lined with muslin. Measure the juice. Keep 300ml for the recipe and freeze any left over.

2. Put the fruit into a large preserving pan. Simmer until the fruit softens, about 10 minutes. Add the pectin stock and bring the pan back to a gentle simmer. Continue to cook for another twenty minutes. Warm the sugar in a low oven, 140C ( 120C Fan) /275F/Gas 1. Remove the sugar from the oven and place clean jars in the oven to warm for 10 minutes.

3. Add the sugar to the preserving pan and stir until it has dissolved. Bring the jam quickly to a rolling boil and boil hard until setting point is reached. Test for a set after 8 minutes using the flake, cold plate or thermometer test. For a flake test, dip a large spoon into the pan and scoop out a spoonful. Lift the spoon above the pan and turn it horizontally. If the jam has reached setting point of 104.5℃ ( 220℉) it will drip then hang on the side of the spoon.

4.As soon as setting point is reached, remove the pan from the heat and leave it to stand for 10 minutes. Push any scum from the surface of the pan to the side and remove it with a metal spoon.

5. Gently stir the strawberry jam and pour it into warm, clean jars, up to the brim. Seal the jars immediately with new twist top lids. Leave the jars upright and undisturbed to set.

miranda and viv

strawberry pud

Scones and Strawberry Jam

Jam and Roses