The sweet-flavoured strawberries eaten today, are thought to have originated from cross-breeding North American and French varieties during the eighteenth century. They are regarded as the most popular berry fruits and they make the king of jams, even though they are poor in pectin and acid. If you are a novice jam maker, Strawberry jam is one of the hardest, and I tend to advise against making it first time around. I make Strawberry jam every year, in response to requests from family and friends, to stretch myself and as a refresher for judging competitions. It doesn’t get any less scary, although adding redcurrant pectin stock to my recipe and using granulated cane sugar ( not Jam Sugar) creates a jam with a naturally rich colour, true fruit flavour and a gelled set.

Strawberries are classified by their time of fruiting.Pic They are “early” “mid-season” or late. Perpetual strawberries produce fruit in the summer months, have a rest, and then produce more fruit in the autumn. Alpine strawberries produce tiny fruit over a long period. When planting, a south or south-west site is ideal. Shelter is important as wind and frost can seriously reduce the crop, although because of the long flowering period it is unlikely that frost will result in a total wipe-out.

Outdoor plants flower in May and June depending on the variety and season. Strawberries will tolerate a wide range of soils. However, they will crop best where there is a good depth of soil, which is well drained. Water logging and poor drainage can lead to plant death. One month before planting, well rotted compost worked in will help the crop yield. After planting, lay down straw to prevent damage to the fruit in wet weather. Straw can also be used to prevent frost damage by spreading it over the plants during the night and removing it during the day, during the flowering period.

Competitions

Strawberry jam is a popular class in competitions. As a judge I look for a sealed jar which “pops” when opened and filled to within 3mm from the top. The jam should be set, have a bright, even colour, without scum or air bubbles. The consistency should be spreadable, not stiff or runny. I award most of my marks for the flavour of the jam, full, fresh, balanced and true. If you use Jam Sugar(sugar with added pectin) be aware the colour of the jam will be bright than you might expect and the consistency firmer, as it is easy to overset jam using this sugar. Remember to read any instructions on the packet.

Strawberry Jam

Makes about 2.25kg (5lb)

1.58kg (3 ½ lbs) strawberries (stalks removed)
400ml (14floz) of pectin stock
1.4kg (3lb) granulated, cane sugar

1. Make the pectin stock by simmering 1kg ( 2lbs) gooseberries or 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 400ml/14floz for the recipe and freeze any left over.

2. Put the fruit into a large preserving pan. Simmer until the fruit softens and the contents of the pan have reduced by a third, about 20 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 7 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. 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.

4. 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.

For more Preserves Recipes First Preserves: Marmalades, Jams, Chutneys or First Preserves: eBooks

Preserve Your Own – Rhubarb Jam

Preserve Your Own – Strawberry and Black Currant Curd

Preserve Your Own – Sweet Corn and Pepper Relish

Preserve Your Own – Tomato and Pepper Chutney

Preserve Your Own – How to Make Syrups and Cordials

 

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