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Tuesday, 21 June 2011

preserving summer...

The abundance of the Wexford strawberry sellers on the sides of the roads mean it's the perfect time to make your own jam if you haven't done so before. These berries certainly don't last as long as the sprayed-to-death 'super-berries' from the supermarkets (in stock all year round, they look like strawberries, smell like strawberries but alas, taste of not very much at all). 

People think there is some mystery to jams, jellies and preserves, but there isn't really. Traditionally jams are made 1:1 proportion fruit to sugar. This means for each kilo of fruit you use a kilo of sugar. My mother never used any preservative except sugar and neither do I. If you want preservatives in your jam, buy it in the supermarket. Just take care to properly sterilise your jars. After that, it's pretty hard to go wrong.

Easy Strawberry Jam

1kg strawberries, hulled & halved
1kg white sugar (or jam sugar - but it's not really necessary)
1 Tablespoon of water
Juice from 1/2 a lemon

Place the fruit and water in a saucepan on a medium heat. Cook for 15 mins until the fruit starts to break down. 

Add the sugar and lemon juice. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 mins. 

Mash any remaining big bits of fruit with a potato masher and skim any foam from the surface.

Carefully pour the hot jam into the prepared jars (see below for perfect jar prep). Seal with the lids and 'Bob's your uncle'! Makes 1 litre or 4 big jars.

Jar Prep (also useful for chutneys & preserves etc.)

This is the easiest way to sterilise jars. Fill your dishwasher with clean cold jars and run a rinse wash. Use the jars one at a time from the dishwasher when needed. 

I prefer to do them in the cool oven of the Aga - another bonus of my kitchen buddy! But, this is how to do it in a regular oven... Heat the oven to 350°F/180°C/Gas 4 - no higher or you risk the glass breaking. Lay a clean tea towel in a large roasting tin. Put the jars and lids in making sure the jars are not touching each other. Close the oven door and sterilise the jars for about 15 minutes. Using thick oven mitts, remove each jar from the oven and fill. Make sure you fill the jar while the jam or preserve is about as hot as the jar. Don't add cold food to hot jars, or hot food to cold jars.

There are all sorts of uses for this fantastic seasonal jam - on a warm buttery scone, oozing out of a classic Victoria sponge or best of all, a hidden away jar kept for a rainy January day when summer seems an eternity away. Hunt out your treasure and spoon a big dollop of it into a bowl of rice pudding, hot from the oven, for a little reminder of summer.


  1. I have never made jam (or jelly) because I am always afraid it will not set.
    There is a huge abundance of blackcurrants growing at my Mum's and I need to do something with them so maybe I will make a jelly for the kids.
    See you for tea tomorrow!

  2. Fear not WiseMona, it nearly always sets and if it won't all is not lost. Empty it back out and re-boil with a tied muslin bag full of lemon pips - the extra pectin will set it for sure. You could also just use that bag in the jam the first time for peace of mind. The pips are where most of the pectin is in seville oranges as well when making marmalade - am I a jam geek? Yes I am!
    Mine is two sugars and lots of milk!


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