Strawberries for Jam
Photo already sent – pattern of strawberry hulls
Picking and preserving your own strawberries is an unmissable experience.
There is still plenty of time to catch the second batch of this year’s strawberries at pick-your-own farms, although this very hot, dry summer will bring them on early.
Lyn remembers picking strawberries for jam in late August last year:
‘It was hot, dry and still, up on the hill at Hayles Fruit Farm outside Winchcombe. Janet in the Farm Shop allowed me to walk up to the crop of Malling Centenary in the far strawberry field while she cashed up.
‘I was the last picker and the silence, peace and stillness was breathtaking. The last picker has to search the hardest, bend the furthest, but some young unripe berries in the mix give excellent results.
‘At home, the jars were washed, the preserving pan cleaned, the sugar with extra pectin and a fresh bottle of liquid pectin were at the ready.
‘This is the secret of success for soft fruit jams and jellies – choose a day like that, enjoy it and make the jam immediately you get home, to capture the full flavour of the berries.’
When making kilos of heavenly preserves and jams at her cookery school in Richmond, Lyn relied on The Preserving Book by Mackinlay and Ricketts (Pan Books 1978).
In recent years, however, she has turned to Pam the Jam, author of the River Cottage Handbook Preserves (Bloomsbury 2008). This sets out the recipes in very handy fashion, as the fruit ripens, month by month.
Tips for making strawberry jam
• Shop-bought strawberries can be overripe and flaccid, so if you can’t buy direct from the farm, only choose packs in which the strawberries are firm and shiny.
• Adding pectin (which is made from apples) decreases the amount of sugar required and also the boiling time. It also ensures a clear, bright colour.
• Use half plain granulated sugar and half pectin sugar.
• Don’t be afraid of using plenty of lemon juice.
Our favourite infallible test to see if you need to add liquid pectin to get a set:
Put 2 tablespoons of methylated spirits in a glass tumbler.
Add 1 tablespoon of the fruit pulp, ideally before any sugar is added.
If the fruit forms a firmish clot, no extra pectin is required.
If the fruit slips about when stirred, follow the directions on the label of the liquid pectin bottle.