I think it’s fair to say that my friends consider me pretty domestic. I think maybe it’s fair to say that I am pretty domestic, except in the world of cleaning, although I swear I am getting way better. Honest.
My girlfriends rarely complain when I show up at there houses with pies, or send them off to their boyfriends with scone dough to bake up in the mornings, but rarely do they come into the kitchen and help me out. So last week Jordan came home with 2 big flats of local strawberries and a few of my favourite girls came over to cook them down, sweeten them like crazy and put it all in jars to open in December when we’re jonesing for good fresh fruit. Some people know this process as jam.
So the urban planner, the song writer and the jewelry maker came over and we listened to Lionel Ritchie, hulls strawberries, ate amazing take out Indian food (man oh man do I love Tandoori Palace) and we all walked away with a lot of jars.
I don’t have a set recipe for jam, because every strawberry is different, and while jam has to be sweet because the sugar is a preservative and that’s how it keeps, I hate jams that taste like sugar.
There are a few things that are imperative to jam making. Firstly, clean hands, clean jars, clean lids. Clean. Bacteria getting inside a jar can become botulism, and that scares the hell out of me. Seriously.
Secondly, in order to get a really fresh fruit taste, you have to do it in small batches. Just use two pots. You’ll do it in half the time, and you’ll be able to taste a huge difference.
Thirdly, I say I don’t measure the sugar. The basic formula is 2 parts sugar to 1 part fruit, by weight (so two kilos of sugar for one kilo of fruit) but I find this excessive and so I use a little less.
I also don’t boil the jars, I clean them very carefully and then I keep them hot in the oven, I find this method easier.
3-4 cups Sugar
1 Vanilla Bean
Juice of half a lemon
Place a plate in the freezer.
Preheat the oven to 300F
Wash your jars and lids very carefully, put them on a tray in single row and place them in the oven.
Hull the strawberries and cut them in half.
Wash them very carefully.
Put them all into a big pot and cook them, stirring frequently, on medium heat until most of the liquid has been dissolved, about 20 minutes.
Add in 3 cups of sugar, lemon juice and the vanilla bean and cook until that has reduced. Now taste it. If your using really good fresh local strawberries you may find that it’s sweet enough as is, or if your strawberries were a little less ripe you may need to add more.
Be careful at this point, the sugar is likely to burn if your not watchful and stirring pretty regularly.
Now check the consistency- take the plate out of the freezer and spoon a little jam on top. Let it sit for a minute and then push it around. If it’s done it won’t spread thin and if you spread your finger through it it will hold it’s shape and not spread out again. If your there jam is done! If not keep it on for another 5 minutes or so and then try again.
When your ready take out the jars and fill them up with about a quarter inch left from the top. You can do this wth a ladle or, if you have one, a canning funnel is very helpful!
Put the lids on and just barely screw them on.
Put them back in the oven for 5 minutes.
Take them out and let them cool at room temperature. You should hear popping noises as the jars seal.
And your done, strawberry jam!