It’s that time of year again, when my maslin pan comes out of hiding and I find myself rooting around in the shed trying to find empty jam jars. Sadly, the bloomin’ birds got first pick at my fruit bushes this year. I noticed, one day, that the many wood pigeons that live in our garden were quite active, on further inspection, I realised it was because they were happily stripping my early ripening red currant bush. I then noticed all the cherries had gone. Bummer. I swiftly netted the remaining (and later ripening) red currant bush and the blackcurrant bush and put a diary note into my calendar for next year to NET EARLIER!!!
The blackcurrant bush has provided a nice crop again this year. We are due lots of rain, so I decided to bring in the ripe berries a few days ago, I combined the picking with a good pruning, removing one-third of the bushes growth as near to the base as possible. This is the first time I’ve pruned the blackcurrant bush, it is still relatively new but from now on it’ll get pruned every year. I made my usual jam and cassis, both recipes can be found in last years post. I confess to a bit of an addiction to blackcurrant jam, is is the right side of tart for me and has become my morning favourite on buttered seedy toast. I had hoped to try some new recipes, maybe some ice cream of even a cake but time was lacking and I didn’t want the fruit to sit too long, waiting to be used.
For those not familiar with the UK, Kent (the county we live in) is mainly an agricultural county and is mostly famous for its orchards and strawberries. At this time of year, you can stop at many roadside stalls and buy punnets of fresh strawberries at a very reasonable price, so it’s always worth buying extra for making jam and these days, people are much more aware of eating and buying local food.
Local supermarkets are also getting in on the ‘buy local ‘and seasonal act. British produce is proudly presented and often you are told not only the variety but also the grower and region on the packaging. I bought 4 punnets of strawberries whilst we were in the village recently, I made certain they were from Kent growers, my only other concern was that they weren’t too soft. The smell as I walked home was heavenly. It turns out I’d picked up two varieties, both from local growers and I was amazed at the difference. I had one punnet of Sonata, which although they smelt nice, tasted a bit watery and 3 punnets of Sovereign – Wow they were delicious! I mean really, really amazing, the kind of full flavoured strawberries that make you glad you have almost and entire extra box so you can eat them whilst preparing the jam 😉
I used my usual recipe, it makes a softer jam, still set but with less sugar than shop bought and the method of leaving the strawberries overnight covered in sugar produced a jam with set jelly and some larger strawberry pieces. Lovely.
Makes approx 5-6 jars (320ml)
- 1.25 kg Strawberries (don’t wash them)
- 900g Jam Sugar (with added pectin)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp butter
Put 3 saucers into the freezer. Make sure jars are ready and clean (I put them in a dishwasher).
Hull the strawberries and cut in half or quarters if very large. Add them to a preserving or large pan along with the sugar. Mix gently then leave covered with a clean tea-towel for a few hours or overnight. This allows the sugar to mostly dissolve and keeps the strawberries whole. In the morning, most of the sugar will have dissolved and they will look like:
Put your jam jars, plus lids on a clean tray in a moderate oven to sterilize – approx 150 degrees C (or if washed in the dishwasher, remember not to take them out until you need them so they stay warm and sterile).
Warm the pan over a very low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved (v. important. You don’t want any crystals left), this can take a while, try not to stir too much. Add the lemon juice and turn the heat right up to bring everything to the boil. Keep stirring to stop any jam burning on the bottom of the pan.
Once at a ‘rolling boil’ time for 8 minutes then remove the pan from the heat. Place a small teaspoon of jam onto one of the saucers from the freezer, chill briefly then push with your finger, if the skin crinkles the jam is ready, if not, boil for a further 3-4 mins and check again with a new cold saucer for a ‘set’.
Remove from the heat, skim off most of the scum and stir in the butter to disperse any last bits. Leave for 20 mins to settle then pour into clean still warm sterile jars. Cover with a wax disc and seal.
Ok confessions time. I wrote this post optimistically on Sunday morning, before boiling up my jam. I didn’t use sugar with added pectin, I only had granulated in, this was a mistake! Although you can make jam with regular sugar (and some fruit has such a high pectin level nothing extra is needed), but in this case it was a great big fail. After the first 8 min boil, there was no set, I boiled for a further 5mins, then decided to give up and accept I’d made a nice fridge jam. I could have boiled for longer but I know, from experience, that it can ruin the jam, at a certain point the colour goes very dark and it just isn’t as nice, I’d rather have a loose jam, with a shortened shelf life (I always keep opened jam in the fridge anyway) then an over boiled one. Live and learn.
So, I have 4 large jars of jam that need to be eaten first….guess who’s going to be making scones this weekend 🙂