The siren call of strawberry jam has become too strong to resist. We have a bumper crop this year and I've decided it's worth parboiling myself over a hot stove if it means I can get a taste of our luscious berries during the winter.
I like jam with big pieces of fruit in it so I've made a conserve rather than a jam. The traditional way is to make a sugar and lemon syrup first, steep the fruit in it then boil it all briefly. This reduces the overall cooking time and stops the fruit breaking up too much.
But as strawberries are notoriously difficult to get to setting point, even with the addition of lemon juice, I've taken a slightly different route and chucked a sachet of pectin into the mix, before macerating the fruit in the sugar overnight until the juices run. Again, this helps keep the fruit in nice big chunks.
Mrs Portly's Strawberry Conserve (makes about five 370g/13oz jars)
2lb/900g strawberries, preferably small to medium sized and ripe but firm
2lb/900g white sugar
The juice of 1 lemon
1 sachet of pectin
1 tspn of butter
Keep the smaller strawberries whole and halve the large ones. In a large bowl, mix the pectin into the sugar very thoroughly. If you don't do this the pectin goes lumpy. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and add to the strawberries. Mix the berries and sugar and place in the fridge overnight or until the juices start to run.
Put your jam jars into the dishwasher or a medium oven to sterilise. Put a saucer into the freezer or fridge so you can test the jam's setting point in due course.
Give the macerated strawberries a stir and put in a preserving pan over a low to medium heat until all the sugar has dissolved. Put a teaspoon of butter into the pan. This helps stop scum forming.
Turn the heat up a couple of notches and cook the jam mixture, stirring gently from time to time so as not to break up the fruit, until setting point is reached.
I judge this by dripping the jam off my spoon - if it's running off it's not ready - if it's forming gloopy droplets it probably is.
Remove from the heat, put a couple of teaspoonsful onto the cold saucer and put back in the fridge/freezer for five minutes. Then push it with your finger - if it wrinkles, it's at setting point. If not, put the jam back on the heat and keep going until it's ready, testing every few minutes.
The strawberries should still be holding their shape, but don't worry, if they've broken up it'll still taste just as good.
When the jam has reached setting point, take it off the heat but leave it in the pan to cool down for a few minutes, otherwise your strawberries will float to the top of the jar when you bottle the conserve. (I speak from experience. Trust me, it's really boring trying to push them down to the bottom with a teaspoon after the event).
Using a wide-necked jam funnel, pour the jam into the sterilised jars. Seal and allow to cool.