Strawberry Jam

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.

Strawberry Jam

2lbs Strawberries

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!

Lasting Lemons

While I am definately looking forward to sunshine, fresh berries and days on the beach, the one thing from winter I will miss are the beautiful citrus fruits. Limes aren’t as juicy, lemons aren’t as sweet and grapefruits are so much more bitter in the middle of july. Which is mostly okay, I’ll happily take beaches and peaches, but of course I say that now and in a few months I’ll be waxing poetic about the beauty of key limes.

Which is all to say that in preparation for my citrus withdrawal symptoms I made lemon curd this week.

I love lemon curd.

Spread on toast in the morning? Iced onto cakes? Sandwiched inside a fresh scone? Check, check and check.

Lemon curd is also one of those things thats incredibly simple to make and yet costs an absolute fortune to buy in shops. So save yourself some money and make it at home. It only takes a few ingredients and 20 minutes (seriously, thats a generous estimate, it takes me 10 minutes!) and it also makes an amazing hostess gift.

Lemon Curd

(adapted from the Tartine Bakery Cookbook)

1/2 cup Lemon Juice

5 Egg Yolks

1/4 cup Sugar

1 cup Butter, softened.

Mix together the yolks and the sugar.

Add in the lemon juice and pour it into a pot and cook at a medium heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a boil.

Strain it into a bowl.

Stir in the butter, piece by piece, into the curd until it is all emulsified in.

Pour it into a sterilized jar and seal, or it will last for up to 2 weeks in your fridge!

Figs and other Fun Things


So your going to have some people over for dinner. Your going to try to impress them, make a nice meal, maybe braise some lamb and saute some good veggies from your local market. Maybe your going to make a tart or a cake. Your going to put some effort in.

So you go to the store because you forgot that you need to buy some cheese for the cheese and meat plate that you’ll put out while you drink your glass of wine and great your guests. You need to buy some of that fancy jam that costs $8.00 for 250mL to put out on your cheese plate and then you buy some expensive balsamic to dress the salad. Your finishing touches just cost you $25.00.

But that won’t happen to you! Because you’re reading this post which means you now know that all you need are some dried figs and some really cheap balsamic. I spend $6.50 on a liter of balsamic. Buy the crappy stuff. Buy some decent figs, black mission figs if you can find them, and you’ll take them home simmer them for a couple hours and you’ll have really good balsamic. It will be sweet, it will be fruity and it will taste like the good stuff.

And the figs that have been poaching away with them will be transformed into a beautiful jam for your cheese plate. You’ll mix in some honey, maybe some vanilla, maybe some rosemary, maybe both if you have them on hand and you’ll through it in your food processor and out comes fancy homemade fig and balsamic jam. Not bad for 10 minutes of work and less then ten dollars!

Fig Balsamic

1L Balsamic Vinegar, don’t bother with the good stuff

2 cups Dried Figs, Black mission figs if you can

Cut the woody end of the figs off and pour into a heavy bottomed pot with the vinegar. Do not use an aluminium pot or your vinegary will taste like aluminium.

Simmer for about 2-3 hours.

Strain it, you now have your vinegar. That was easy right?

Balsamic Fig Jam

2cups Dried Figs that we’re simmered in balsamic for at least 2 hours

2/3 cup Honey or to taste

1 tsp Vanilla

1 sprig Rosemary, finely chopped

Put figs back on to the stove and cover with water. Add honey and bring to a simmer

Once figs are hot put them in your food processor and puree until smooth, add in the vanilla and the rosemary and pulse to combine.

Put in a jar and it’s ready to serve!

Spring Time!

In Italy they have festivals celebrating asparagus. In the land of slow food and local food, its arrival in the spring means the end to root vegetables. It means soon there will be lettuce and then berries and then fruit. It means good things for the kitchen my friends. We can eat asparagus year round now, it comes from Peru, or Mexico or sometimes Argentina. If I`m lucky I can find some from California but thats as good as it gets here I`m afraid. There aren’t of winter farmers markets here so I don’t get the change to dance about asparagus but let me tell you, what I miss out on with asparagus I make up for with rhubarb.

Rhubarb is glorious. Its one of the first things to pop out of the ground in the spring time and it is the most amazing vibrant pink. It is so sour you can hardly eat it but it is wonderful mounded with sugar. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s not a root vegetable. It hasn’t been sitting in a cellar since October, it doesn’t taste like the rich fall vegetables that met their sweetness from months ripening in the sun. No, it tastes like spring. It tastes like it’s fighting it’s way into the garden eager to be the first. It tastes like new beginnings and it tastes wonderful.

Friends, you are going to get so sick of this blog if you don’t like rhubarb because man oh man am I that rhubarb is around. I wanted to bake with it, and I will, very soon, but first I wanted rhubarb jam.

I love rhubarb jam and it is painfully simple to make, so simple I almost feel bad giving a recipe to it. I didn’t have any pectin so I used half an apple. Apples are chalk full of pectin so it’s an easy way to add a little extra sweetness and get your jam to thicken up. I do to spice it up a little by add the tiniest bit of rose water to it. You want just the tiniest bit because to much will start to taste perfume-y. You just a hint of floral. I had some in my cupboard but you can find it at middle eastern stores, and if you can’t find it, then just go without. I promise, no one will complain.

Rhubarb and Rose Jam

Wash the rhubarb very carefully

Put in in a thick bottom pot with the apple on medium-low heat

Let it slowly simmer

It will start to fall apart

Keep going, it will fall apart more

Once its totally fallen apart add in the sugar.

Turn the heat down to low and stir regularly until the the apple is comlete mush and the jam becomes quite thick.

Add in the rose water. Just a couple drops, taste it, then you can add in more. The rose should be very subtle.

Pour into a jar and think of spring!