Thursday, 4 November 2010

Strawberry Jam

To avoid avoid the nightmare of Christmas shopping this year I will make mini Christmas hampers for everyone. Since the middle of summer I've been making the odd thing here and there so now the bottom shelf of my pantry (ikea cupboard) is full of jam, various infusing spirits and preserving paraphernalia. I've spent the last couple of months foraging for blackberries, battling with unset jellies and sterilising squillions of jam jars but I'm nearly there now and only have a handful of tomato sauces to make.  Aargh and the Christmas cakes.  My poor husband is starting to fear that I'm turning into Martha Stewart (without the prison sentence) and lives in fear of waking up to discover the flat covered in patchwork and tea cosies. Poor chap doesn't even like jam.

Most jam recipes state that jam should be consumed within 6 months so in order to maximise the shelf life of these Christmas gifts I wanted to make the jam as late as possible. To benefit from cheap fruit I bought fresh strawberries in July, weighed them into 1 kilo bags, froze them and made the jam this week.

I prefer a pure strawberry taste so the only additional flavour in this jam is lemon juice for the set. It's the fifth batch of jam I've made this year and so far shows all the signs of being the best yet.  The strawberries collapsed comprehensively as a result of being frozen but the taste is perfectly sweet without being cloying and the lemon adds the perfect high note to balance out the sugar.

  Prepare in advance by making sure you have the following things to hand:

- 6 medium size jam jars.  Either save them up from your normal shopping purchases, beg and steal from friends and family or just buy direct from places like John Lewis or Lakeland.  I can also recommend this fabulous little site: Jam Jar Shop.
- a maslin pan, or large flat-bottomed pan
- a sugar thermometer (although I will discuss how to check the setting point of the jam without this)
- a wide-necked jam funnel (not absolutely essential but it will cut down on an awful lot of mess).

Now you are ready.  The process of making the jam is surprisingly easy yet amazes me every time. The truth is, the part of the process that takes the longest is cleaning and sterilising the jars, and that really couldn't be simpler.

Frozen Strawberry Jam
  • 1kg strawberries, hulled and frozen
  • 1kg preserving sugar 
  • Juice of 1&1/2 lemons
  1. First defrost the strawberries an hour before use
  2. Wash all the jam jars and funnel with hot soapy water, rinse them well and place on an oven proof tray.  Put the tray in the oven on a low heat (120degrees) for 30 mins. Place the jars neck up so you don't have to touch them before adding the jam
  3. Put all the fruit, sugar and lemon juice together in the pan and bring to the boil on a low heat
  4. Stir often to dissolve all the sugar
  5. As the sugar starts to boil the temperature will slowly rise towards the setting point (105C). To test this dip your thermometer into the centre of the jam to take it's temperature. NB if you do not have a thermometer you can test this by placing a small plate in the freezer an hour before you start to make the jam. To test the set, drip some jam onto the plate and leave to cool for 3-5 seconds.  When cool nudge the jam with your fingers. If the surface wrinkles you have reached setting point.
  6. Once setting point has been reached turn the heat off and lightly skim the froth from the top of the jam.  Remove the tray and sterilised jars from the oven with oven gloves.  Try not to touch any of the necks or lids with your fingers or gloves.  If you are using a jam funnel place this in the neck of the jar and ladle the jam in until the jar is full. Otherwise ladle straight into the jar. Immediately screw on the lid.  
  7. If you wish to use wax discs at this point they should be pushed onto the top of the hot jam before screwing on the lid.  Personally I don't bother as I don't see the point of adding a non-sterile element to the jar when I've gone to so much effort to sterilise it.

Toast and jam, cream tea or Victoria sponge cake?  

An unexpected side effect of preparing hampers in this way is that I am now completely excited about Christmas.  It almost feels like it's time to put the decorations up and order the Baileys in.  Does anyone else create these little hampers for friends?  What are your favourite home-made gifts?


  1. Oh look I never commented on how delicious this is. It really is extraordinarily strawberry-y. Thanks ever so much for a jar of this, Jane. It was very popular with all members of the household during the unsurprisingly short time it lasted.

    Your Christmas hampers will be amazing, I'm sure.

  2. That was me by the way. For some reason I was unable to post yesterday without hiding my identity.

  3. Hey, I forgot I gave you a jar. I'm really pleased you liked it. Hope to see you again soon.

  4. Great recipe! I will make a bulk of this and seal it in jar with my vacuum sealer for later use. Thanks!