I accidentally created the best strawberry jam in the history of the world by misreading the recipe.
Two years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of making my own jam, and would have scoffed at anyone who peddled the yawn-worthy line that homemade tastes better. But, unfortunately, it turns out they were right. And jams and chutneys are a really good way to use up left over fruit before it goes off. In all honesty, I tend to make it because I don’t know what else to do with the seen-better-days strawberries in the fridge, and because anything that can be slathered on toast is welcome in my house. But most importantly, it makes you feel smug, and I love feeling smug.
So here we go: the recipe I read told you to use a teaspoon of lemon juice, but I used a whole lemon, and who’d have thought, it made it sharper. It’s not completely obviously lemony, but it makes the whole thing just a bit fresher.
Really, really great jam.
It goes like this:
Smug Strawberry Jam
Makes: 2 medium sized jars.
Takes: 20 minutes total
Bakes: 15 minutes
400g jam sugar*
Juice of 1 lemon
1. Hull the strawberries and slice finely (there’s a nifty way to do this that you see on pinterest which involves brutally shoving a plastic straw through the length of the strawberry to remove the stem, but I tend to just chop them with a knife, as I’m 26 and don’t own plastic straws).
2. Place in pan with juice of a lemon and allow to cook down on a medium heat for 2-3 minutes (until the strawberries become squidgy and soggy).
3. Once soggy, add the sugar, and heat. Stir constantly to prevent the jam sticking and burning (this is more likely to happen with a smaller quantity of jam, so this recipe, I’m afraid, needs care, attention, and not a little patience). Keep the heat low-to-medium to prevent aforementioned burning.
4. If you have a thermometer or probe, check for the jam reaching temperatures of 105 degrees celsius: this is jam temperature. This always takes much much longer than you think, and the last couple of degrees can be slow and torturous: HAVE FAITH. If you’re using a thermometer rather than a probe, make sure you’re not just testing the heat at the base of the pan, where plainly it will be hotter. [If you have neither thermometer nor probe, place a saucer in the fridge or freezer. When you think you’re approaching jam temperature, carefully (you’re dealing with molten sugar here: it’s called prison napalm for a reason) spoon a small amount onto the saucer, and leave for a moment. If, when you then touch the jam with a finger nail, it wrinkles, as if a skin has been formed, it’s ready].
5. Pour carefully (CAREFULLY!) into sterilised jars, and place lid on. Once you’ve put the lid on (and you’re sure you’ve put the lid on securely), gently roll the jam inside the jar right up the sides and into the lid, to seal the jar, and help preserve the contents.
*Jam sugar has added pectin in it. It is the pectin which means that your jam sets, rather than remaining like a slightly damp, miserable compote. If you can’t get hold of jam sugar, it is naturally occurring in different quantities in some fruits: bung some lemon pips and apple in a muslin cloth and allow these to sit in the strawberries and lemon juice for about half an hour pre-cooking, and this should introduce sufficient pectin.
There are three ways really to sterilise jars:
If you have a dishwasher, put them through, open, on a hot cycle. Fill as soon as they’re out.
If you have a microwave you can sterilise jars providing they don’t have any metal on them (or you leave the lid out, if you’re using normal jam jars).
If you have an oven, you can heat the oven to 130 degrees celsius, place the (empty, open) jars on a baking tray, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove carefully with oven gloves and fill the jars whilst still hot. Watch out if your jars have rubber seals on: some are not oven proof!