The allotment strawberries are now ripening thick and fast – faster than I can eat them or give them away. That can mean only one thing: jam-making season has started.
Strawberry jam is not the easiest to set – but if you’re willing to watch and wait while it boils down enough the results are delicious.
So here’s my simple six-step recipe for allotment strawberry jam. This makes exactly five Bonne Maman sized jars of jam which cost less than 25 pence each, plus the fuel cost (or about four “normal” style jam jars). It uses slightly less sugar and lemon than St Delia.
You will need:
3-and-a-half pounds (1.6kg) of strawberries, not too ripe (weight after removing stalks and hulls)
1 kg bag sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 knob butter or marge
Step 1. Pour the sugar onto the strawberries in a large preserving pan and heat on a low heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon until all the sugar has dissolved. You can check this by looking at the back of the wooden spoon and seeing if the liquid looks completely smooth or still has tiny sugar crystals in it.
Step 2. Add the lemon juice, then turn up heat and bring to a rapid rolling boil, adding the butter to stop the foamy top boiling over.
Step 3. Keep boiling, stirring every 5 mins or so, until the consistency starts to change and a teaspoonful of jam placed on a plate looks less runny. This could take anything up to 45 minutes, so be patient.
To test for setting, put a teaspoonful on a plate, leave for 30 seconds, and slowly push it with your finger. If it wrinkles on top, it’s ready. You’ll also notice by now that the jam is bubbling is a different way, like a proper witches’ cauldron, and is likely to spit viciously as you stir. Aprons on, boys and girls! At this point it can start to burn and stick at any point, so repeat the setting test every couple of minutes
Step 5. Pour into the warmed jars. I use a ladle, a Pyrex jug and a jam funnel with a wide lip (perfect for the Bonne Maman jars) and put the lids on as tightly as you can.
Step 6. Enjoy. Pile onto bread. Give away. Do whatever.
One other thing: if you want to keep some actual strawberries in the final jam, put the strawberries and sugar in the pan the night before, in layers, so that the juices are drawn out.
I made my most recent batch like this, de-stalking and hulling proving a useful distraction to the horrors of watching England repeatedly passing the ball to Italians on Sunday night. I left the berries in the sugar overnight, and the next morning added the lemon, boiled and stirred for nearly an hour.
The results are yummy – and definitely not helping the weight-loss programme… And this despite the sluggy, wet year. I’m still finding my six steps to organic strawberries are working brilliantly, and the slugs are remembering to eat only the sacrificial strawberry left in the ‘hood.
I got most of my Bonne Maman jars by putting a “Wanted” listing on my excellent local Freecycle group. They’re easier to fill than normal jars with my wide-necked jam funnel, and they look lovely. Most of the recipients of the jam give me the jars back so they get filled time and time again.
Recycling and allotmenteering – a perfect combination. Just like bread and strawberry jam.