Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Strawberry Jam Making

At this time of year the strawberries are coming into their own, There are lots of luscious things to make with them, namely adding a small amount of sugar to them , allowing them to macerate for about 15 minutes and then eating with creme fraiche and meringue. What could be better. However, my brother gave me 2Kg of strawberries this week and as much as I love the above strawberry dessert, there were so many that I was moved to make jam!! The exclamation marks are there because I am no lover of strawberry jam. I have always found it too sweet for my taste. I prefer plum or sour cherry jams and when they are really good apricot jam, Oh and I forgot to mention blackberry. In the past I have tried to make strawberry jam myself and while I have not achieved jam I have made a very nice syrup. I think that you are beginning to understand my feelings about strawberry jam.

So, faced with these strawberries, I suddenly remembered the recent Raymond Bland television series, in which he met Christine Ferber, who is the acclaimed jam maker of France. I decided that if she couldn't give me a recipe for decent strawberry jam then no one could.

What I found was interesting, but her method of making jam over a couple of days is not a new one. I have seen it in old cookery books that I had on my shelves. Basically you take:

1Kg of hulled and quartered strawberries
1 kg of sugar ( I only used 650g)
1/2 a lemon

This is not a new recipe.

I also uses a packet of powdered pectin. Don't use the liquid one as it is awful.
I don't like too much sugar in jam so I only used 650g. Far healthier and better.

Lets proceed. This is my adapted method and not the precise one given by Christine. 
Put the strawberries in a non reactive bowl ( plastic). Cover with 500g of sugar and the juice of half a lemon and stir. Place in the fridge overnight to let the juices run.
Next day, put the bowl in the microwave, plastic can be so handy, and bring up to boiling temperature. Switch off and allow to cool. You can do this in a sink filled with enough cold water to cover the base of the outside of the bowl. No water in the bowl. Return to the fridge. Leave overnight.
By the next day you will have a good amount of strawberry liquid and some, almost candied, strawberries floating about on the top. Strain the liquid into a medium saucepan and put the strawberries back into the plastic bowl.
Put the strawberries back into the microwave and heat up. This should take about 3 minutes. They need to be hot when they go back into the syrup as it speeds up the setting time.
Bring the strawberry liquid up to the  a rolling boil until it reaches 105 degrees C. Add the warm strawberries to the liquid and return to 105 degrees. Then add the rest of the sugar that you have mixed in with the powdered pectin. Mix well and boil rapidly until you reach 105 degrees. This should take about 4 minutes. Test for setness by doing a wrinkle test. See Delia for help on this.
Pour the jam into sterilised jars and put the tops on straight away. As the jars cool that should pop and this will tell you that an airtight seal has been created which will help your jam to stay fresh.
I found it helped to turn the jars upside down from time to time as this helps distribute the strawberry pieces.

Now for what I found.

I used my trusty thermometer that I bought from IKEA a couple of years ago. It is a probe so I think that it is much better than a sugar thermometer which is hard to read and a pain to clean.

It is really difficult to get the syrup to reach 105 degrees. I put it on the highest heat that I had and it insisted in boiling away like mad but never getting higher than 99. I now believe that this is the reason that my jam has never set before. I have never actually reached the setting temperature. You can boil for ages and make a disgusting jam without reaching a setting point.

This is why I cheated and added powdered pectin that I bought in France. Makes life so much easier and gives you a jam that sets without boiling the flavour out of it and helps to enhance the taste. Do not bother with liquid pectin as in my opinion it has a distinct flavour that will spoil the jam.

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