Thursday, December 15, 2011

Challenge recipe 18: Strawberry jam

So if you guys follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you'd know that I spent all of Sunday making strawberry jam and lemon butter and mango chutney as Christmas presents. Needless to say, it was QUITE the long day. But successful, in the end, so I guess that's what really matters!

Aaaaaaaanyway. The recipe I used was part of my cookbook challenge. And making jam was also on my Day Zero list. So I've crossed things off TWO challenge lists in one hit! #score

So. The most time consuming part of the entire process is actually sterilising the jars. A couple of days before, I bought a 5 piece home canning kit. It included a wide mouthed funnel, a magnetic stick thing to rescue the lids from the boiling water, a thingy that you can use to hold the hot jars while you do the lids up, a pair of tongs, and a thingy that you can use to lift the jars out of the boiling water (top right).
See? Source
All technical terms, obviously. Buying this kit was by far the best thing I could have done before attempting to make my own preserves. If you're planning on making anything that requires you to sterilise jars, I highly recommend you track one down. It was dirt cheap, too!

</segue> Here's the book:

And here's what you'll need:

Pretty simple, huh? Oh, and before you start, get a bunch of small plates or sauce dishes or whatever and put them in the fridge/freezer. You'll need them for testing if it's set later on.

To be perfectly honest, I was a little scared going in. Not just because ARGH BOILING FRUIT AND HOT JARS AND WHAT IF IT DOESN'T SET PROPERLY?!?!?! but because this was my Year 9 Home Economics book. It was first published in 1966. This edition was published in 1993, but I suspect a lot of the recipes hadn't been updated since the 60s. There is a shit ton of WASP-y food in there, yo. (Any book that teaches you to make devilled sardines should be treated with caution...) From memory, we mostly used it for the cake recipes, the cake decorating instructions, and possibly pinwheel sandwiches. Because no girl's education is complete without the ability to make pinwheel sandwiches! #seriouslyWTF

Ahem. You'll need 500g of strawberries. I weighed out 500g before I chopped them. But they had quite a lot of manky bits on them, so I reweighed them to ensure I had enough.

Put the chopped up strawberries in a large saucepan. Add in two cups of white sugar.

Yes, I know two cups is a buttload of sugar. Just do it. Squeeze a lemon:

It helps if you have an excited six year old to do it for you. Pick out the seeds and add the juice to the saucepan. Then add in 1 tablespoon of pectin. In case you're curious, here's what pectin looks like:

So, now's about the time that you want to get your jars going. Cookery the Australian Way says otherwise, but the instructions that came with the jars said to wash them in hot soapy water, rinse them off, then put them in boiling water for ten minutes. So that's what I did!

Turn the heat on under the fruit mixture, and stir constantly while bringing to the boil:

I'm sorry. I know it looks gross. Once it's boiling, reduce the heat SLIGHTLY and cook for six minutes, still stirring regularly. To simplify the clean up later, you can use a pastry brush dipped in water to dissolve any sugar that's stuck to the sides of the saucepan.

After the six minutes, grab one of the plates/dishes/whatever that you put in the fridge/freezer earlier. Take a teaspoon, and grab a little bit of the hot jam. Pour it into the cold dish and leave it for about 20 seconds:
I just realised this is technically a tea cup not a sauce dish. WHATEVER.

Once you can tip the dish and the mixture doesn't move, run your finger through it. If the surface of the jam gets crinkle marks on it, it's going to set. If not, keep cooking it and try again after another couple of minutes. Mine took either ten or twelve minutes. Once it passes the gel test, take the saucepan off the heat. Grab a clean spoon, and scrape as much of the foam off the top as you can. It's not essential (or at least I don't *think* it is!), it just looks prettier without it.

If you've timed things well, your jars should be done with their ten minutes of boiling. Turn the heat off. Haul them out of the boiling water with your handy dandy jar grabber doohickey, tip the water out of them, and set them upside down on a clean tea towel to drain. Once they're all out of the water, use the handy dandy jar grabber doohickey to turn them right way up again. Using your handy dandy canning funnel, ladle the jam mixture into the jars. I did them one at a time. Don't fill them all the way to the top - there needs to be a gap to create a vacuum so the jar will seal and the jam won't go mouldy and give you food poisoning.

Obviously, you can use the little plastic square things and rubber bands. It's probably much easier. But my jars came with lids and caps, so that's what I used. I found that the easiest way to do it was to fill a jar, then dump the lid into now-not-quite-boiling water, slowly count to ten, haul it out with the magnetic doohickey, and put it straight onto the jar. Then put the cap thingy over the top and tighten. But not too much. The instructions said 'finger tight', whatever the bleeding hell that might mean. Basically, if you do it too tight, it can't form a vacuum. So don't do it too tight, 'kay? Repeat until you've used all the jam.

It made three cups. Once you've finished, leave it somewhere to cool for at least 24 hours. At the end of the time, check if the jars have sealed. If not, open immediately and eat it all yourself.

These were intended as Christmas presents. But there was one jar that didn't seem to have sealed *quite* as much as I would have liked, so I was a little hesitant to give it to my relatives. So I get to eat it instead.

The verdict? NOM!! It's freaking amazing, you guys. Plus, it's not as sickly sweet as some store-bought strawberry jams are. I mean, YES, you can walk down the road to the supermarket and buy a jar of jam and not have to go through all the drama. But where's the fun in that?! ;)

Has anyone else made jam before? How did it go? (And did anyone else have a weird WASP-y home ec book???)
K xx

PS. The mango chutney and the lemon butter are pretty amazeballs too. If anyone wants the recipes, just let me know!!


  1. Hmmm, I tried making marmalade a while back but I stuffed up the setting point test that you used...I ended up with a whole bunch of rubbery stuff. Not fun. G bought me a cooking thermometer so that that doesn't happen again.

    You don't have to buy pectin powder. Chuck the lemon seeds into a muslin cloth or a tea strainer (those ball and chain thingies) and boil it up with the rest of the goop. There's enough pectin in lemon seeds to make the jam set.

  2. Man - wish we had done that cold dish gel test.

  3. @mustbethrifty - Hmm, didn't know that about the lemon seeds! Although I suspect the cost of a tea strainer/bit of muslin would have been much the same as the commercial pectin... (Also, was at the supermarket with Mum and threw it in the trolley when she wasn't looking! Hee hee)
    @Lyndsy - oh dear. Did the port wine jelly end up runny?

  4. I've never tried to make jam but it makes me think of the Friends episode when Monica makes jam. Totally makes me giggle.

  5. Nice work!

    I LOVE lemon curd. I'm highly impressed that you have successfully made these preserves!

  6. @Krysten - I'd totally forgotten about that episode!!
    @Kat - thanks! The lemon curd is pretty delicious. It's technically lemon and lime curd, but that sounds a bit weird to me...


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