Strawberry season is one of my favourite times of the year. Growing up in New Zealand strawberry season heralded the start of summer holidays, no more school and endless sun soaked days spent running wild at my grandparents’ farm. As kids we would roam all over the farm creating adventures out of nothing: a secret fort underneath a pile of tree branches, spies, pirates, detectives; we were only limited by our imagination. One of the highlights of this time was Christmas, not just because of all the food and presents, but because mum would always make a pavlova topped with luscious red strawberries!
Now that I live in sub tropical Queensland I have to get used to strawberries being in season during the winter/spring months (which means now). But no matter what the time of year I am always happy when these luscious red berries start making an appearance and today I am going to use them to make one of my favourite jams.
There is something comforting about making jam, every time I make it I am reminded of generations of women before me who have done exactly the same thing. Admittedly, they were doing it to save money and use up copious amounts of fruit while I do it for the pleasure and because it tastes so good.
Makes 2 jars.
- 1kg Strawberries
- 1 Tablespoon water
- 1kg Sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds removed
- 1/2 cup lemon juice.
Hull and halve the strawberries.
Place strawberries and water in a large heavy based saucepan. Cook strawberries and water, stirring occasionally, on a medium heat for 15 minutes or until fruit has broken down.
Add the vanilla bean and seeds, sugar and lemon juice stir until sugar has been completely combined.
Bring strawberry mixture to the boil then turn down to a simmer.
Simmer fruit mix until temperature reaches 105°C then test if jam is ready as per instructions below. If not ready keep cooking jam and then retest until ready. I took my jam temperature to 108°C, patience is the key here.
Skim white foamy scum from the top of the jam when it is finished cooking. A lot of people will skim as the jam is cooking, but I find it works just to do it at the end – there is less wastage that way.
Pour hot jam directly into hot sterilised jars and seal immediately.
- Pectin is the gelling agent in fruit, but not all fruits are equal when it comes to pectin. The lower the pectin the harder it will be to get the jam to set. Strawberries, for example, are low in pectin so I add lemon juice to my jam to increase the pectin and the acidity
- I don’t use special jam setting sugar or powdered pectin, I just use normal sugar. Jam setting sugar does contain extra pectin, but I haven’t used it before so you are on your own with that one
- Note that sugar acts as a preservative and also helps the jam set so you will need to consider this if you want to reduce the amount of sugar you use in your jam
- The magic number to set jam is 105°C, although for strawberry jam I usually go up to 108°C
- Always sterilise your jars before pouring your jam. Wash and rinse jars, line the bottom of a baking dish with a clean tea towel then place the clean jars upside down on the tea towel. Place the tray of jars in the oven at 100°C (I use 150°C as that is as low as my oven will go) for approx. 15 minutes or until the jars are dry. You want to do this approx. 15 minutes before jam is ready, which brings me to my next point
- Don’t pour jam into cold jars or the jars will crack
- To check if the jam is set, place a small dish into the freezer. Once the dish is cold pour a small teaspoon of jam onto the dish. Place the dish back in to the freezer to cool. Remove from freezer and run your finger through the jam, if the line sets then jam is ready to pour into jars.