Oozy, sticky and outrageously tasty strawberry jam equals pure delight for my boys, and there’s no better jam than one made from berries that they have happily squished themselves. I would love to say that we grow each little rosy heart ourselves, but alas our garden is an absolute bird haven – yes, they come for the berries. Still, they look and smell good dripping over the garden pots and we always manage to get a few to add to our jam jars.
So, how to make yummy yummy jam? The first part starts with jostling a few jam jars. Be sure to collect ones that have a ‘pop’ pressurised lid as your jam will last longer. Clean them thoroughly, then dampen with boiling water and leave each one upside down on a battered old baking tray (lids included) ready to sterilise in the oven. I love smaller jars so that I have plenty of jam to give away to wandering neighbours who sniff their way to our kitchen door.
The next bit is of course to hustle your strawberries. We buy in bulk at the peak of the season when they are ridiculously cheap. Of course straight-from-the-farm strawbs are my favourite, not just because they come in odd sizes (more magic is undoubtedly lurking within) but because I get to haggle my price down in the happy, ever-mad market.
Take your bundles of love home and wash them from top to toe as they’ll need to be squeaky clean hearts before you start squeezing them.
Recipe for Mmmagical Strawberry Jam
1.8kg yummy strawberries, mooshed or sliced, whatever takes little hands’ fancy
5 cups castor sugar
8 tbspn lemon juice
A pile of super squished lemon pips (for the pectin – the stuff that makes the jam firmer). You’ll need about a tablespoon full at least, double that would be delightful! Squeeze the pips through a thin gauze of some description to avoid having to toss the crunchier pip bits into the mix, you just want the slimy stuff.
You’ll also need your jam jars clean and sterilised. Pour boiling water over each one, then clinketty clank a tray of them into the oven for 10 minutes (on very low) to sterilise.
Note – you can add more sugar if you like, up to another 3 cups. Personally, I don’t like my boys having super sweet jam (I prefer to let the rosy strawbs do the talking), but more sugar does mean a thicker jam.
Place everything in a whopping big pot (the bigger the better) and bring the lot to the boil. Once you get to 105 degrees, keep it there until you start to notice that the jam creeping up the sides of the pot is looking decidedly gelatinous. 106 degrees is the magic point (most jammettes would say turn it off at this point). So long as you don’t burn it (stir, stir, stir baby), you can push along at 106 degrees for a while until you’re happy with the degree of stiffness.
Tip – I did use a jam thermometer until it dramatically exploded in my sink one rainy day. I’ve never replaced it and am more than happy with my Gran’s trick of dipping a spoon in the pot and leaving it on a plate in the freezer for a minute or two. If it goes sticky, you’re ready to jar up. With 101 years of wisdom up her sleeve, I’m betting Gran knows best.
The pouring, ladeling, or even funneling of jam into your jars is always a dangerous task and makes a whopping great mess. Keep any little people at a significant distance while you do it because boiling jam is HOT. Fill each jar up to about 1cm below the top, screw on your lid firmly, clean the outside with a wet cloth and leave it to cool someplace safe. The lids will pop down when cool (with lovely pings calling ‘come and gobble me, I’m ready’).
P.S. I’m a big fan of tags for my jars. I keep old cardboard, trim them to the classic Paddington Bear tag shape and stamp with some of my favourite images. Pretty material tops are the norm I suppose, but I tend to get a piece of fine sandpaper and scratch at the lid top until it looks ridiculously rustic and appealing.