The best strawberry jam

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I think there is nothing nicer than some fresh crusty bread with a thin lick of butter and a dollop of home made jam on top. That spoonful of sticky glossy preserve holds the flavours of the sun drenched fruit long into the bleakest of winters. And when I close my eyes, I am transported right into that moment when the fruit was picked and can feel the warmth on my face and taste the sweetness. I grew up surrounded by constant preserving and pickling that my mum did trying to make the most of the many crops we had growing on our orchard. I can still smell the sugary aromas wafting through the air on a hot summer’s evening and hear the crickets playing their night songs…

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And I am particularly fond of home made strawberry jam. Sure, you can buy the commercially produced stuff in the local shop or supermarket and often I get asked why do I bother to make it when it is readily available. The truth is that I love the knowledge of where my fruit has come from and what my jam contains. I also enjoy dedicating time to picking the fruit myself, choosing the right ones, smelling their sweet scent so high on a warm sunny day. I love the ritual of sterilising my jam jars and their lids. I take great pleasure in standing over my vast maslin pan and watching the boiling jam rise up to the top. And I feel immensely proud when we all sit down to share family breakfast and my jam is enjoyed by all.

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Every year I get excited around this time in the knowledge that the local fields which belong to Pickwell Farm are laden heavily with sweet juicy strawberries, row after row inviting you in. We are so lucky to live just down the road from the farm and use it regularly to top up our fruit and veg throughout the week. It is a wonderful place, kept with pride and consideration by its owners. There are many seasonal choices and the produce is always delicious and appreciated by all. Just today by 10 o’clock in the morning the car park was full and fields dotted with people, small and big, all carrying empty baskets into the patches and returning with them brimming to the top. Whilst I was picking my strawberries, I saw a young boy grinning with happiness exclaiming to his dad at the biggest strawberry he has just found. Pure joy in his voice, his enthusiasm was infectious to all of us around him!

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I always admire how neat the strawberries are grown here at the farm, in their long raised rows, each plant tucked in and nested in straw which helps to keep the fruit dry and clean. There are many varieties planted by Pickwell Farm which ensures steady supply of fresh fruit from May till late September, weather dependent. Today I was lucky to be shown to the patch that contained Elegance variety. This particular type produces enormous, tasty strawberries and is just magnificent. The owner recommended it for its delicious flavour and he was right to do so. These strawberries were very moreish indeed. I have used half of my haul to make the jam with as the other half was quickly snatched up by various family members each time they passed by. This recipe belongs to my mum and produces vividly red jam thanks to the short boiling time. As strawberries contain low levels of pectins, jam sugar is used here to ensure the end result is softly set. I also add lemon juice to my mixture as I like it to cut through the sweetness a little. Here is the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1.8 kg of fresh ripe strawberries, prepared
  • 2 kg of jam sugar (with added pectin)
  • 2 unwaxed lemons
  • a small knob of butter

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Sterilise your jam jars and lids as well as the ladle and the funnel in preparation. I tend to do it by washing it all on a hygiene plus setting in my dishwasher and then drying it in hot oven for 10 minutes or so whilst I’m making the jam.

Please ensure your fruit is dry and in top condition to avoid the jam spoiling. I find it best to pick the strawberries mid-morning on a warm sunny day as the fruit will be at its best, aromatic and juicy. Remove the stalks from the strawberries and add them all to a large pan or maslin pan. Using a potato masher, smash the fruit to release its juices.

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Add the sugar and freshly squeezed juice from both lemons. Place the pan on a low heat and stir continuously until the sugar is dissolved but do not allow to boil at this stage.Once the sugar is dissolved add the knob of butter, turn up the heat and bring the mixture to the boil whilst still stirring. Once it has reached a rolling boil (one that cannot be brought down by stirring), leave the mixture to cook for four minutes only. Remove from the heat and pour into the prepared jars. Cover with lids and allow to cool down completely before storing somewhere dry and dark.

The jam will keep unopened for up to 12 months. Once opened, please store it in the fridge to avoid spoiling. Have it on toast, bread, pancakes, waffles, with some mature cheddar cheese… What do you mean you never had cheese and strawberry jam sandwich? You don’t know what you are missing out on, please correct it immediately! Or have it over a dollop of clotted cream and home made scone, delicious. Enjoy x

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With special thanks to Pickwell Farm for producing such superb fruit and veg. Thank you once again!