Summer is imminent in the UK when locally grown strawberries start to appear in the stores, (despite all the bad weather jokes!). We do live in an age where strawberries are available all year round but it’s not the same. I do not associate strawberries with Winter, I’ve moved on to the clementine then! Besides, when grown in a Spanish polytunnel, strawberries (in my opinion) do not taste very strawberryish.
I have been making strawberry jam for years, mostly the only ingredients I used were strawberries and sugar but since tweeting & blogging Ive come across jam with all sorts of other ingredients added (alcohol, vinegar, spices). I realised what a sheltered kitchen I lived in!! So this year I was a little more adventurous and included some black pepper which is supposed to bring out the strawberry in the strawberry! I also added vanilla, well just because! I was probably a little conservative in my pepper and vanilla additions as I didn’t follow a recipe.
Despite my general conservatism, when making jam I rarely follow a recipe. After years of looking through jam recipes that were all so confusingly similar I gave up and now my starting point tends to be weighing the fruit, then adding slightly less in weight of sugar. I’ve made really small batches before resulting in only one and a bit jars because that’s all the fruit I happened to have! In the UK we have “jam sugar” which has added pectin for setting purposes, I havent come across a reason not to use this but I prefer to use regular sugar (I like unrefined). As a result this strawberry jam is quite a soft set, more of a conserve.
Water bath canning is not a common process in the UK but now I’ve tried it I like it. I don’t have a canner but successfully use my largest stock pot filled with water.
- 1.4 kilos of strawberries, rinsed, hulled, large ones cut into halves
- 1 kilo sugar granulated or jam sugar
- Juice of a lemon
- 1/2 vanilla pod
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- Begin by putting up to 3 saucers into the freezer to use to check for the setting point later.
- Add the strawberries to a large pan or if you have one a jam pan.
- Add the sugar and lemon juice.
- Scrape the vanilla seeds out of the pod into the pan then throw in the pod.
- Dissolve the sugar slowly over a low heat, until there are no visible sugar grains on the back of a wooden spoon.
- Add the pepper.
- Boil rapidly for 15 minutes
- Take off of the heat and test for setting by putting a teaspoon of jam onto one of the frozen saucers. Leave to cool for a minute and test for setting by pushing your finger through the jam. If the jam doesn’t immediately fall back into place or wrinkles and even better a skin has formed, it is set.
- If not, return to the heat for 2 minutes and repeat number 8. Usually 1 or 2 repeats are all that’s necessary. Of course the opposite to under setting is over setting which results in jam that is unusable so better for a slightly runny jam that can be used in other ways such as a sauce for ice cream.
- When setting point is reached, fish out the vanilla pod and put into sterilised jars.
- Put on lids, wipe jars clean
- Simmer jars for 10 minutes in a water bath.