strawberry & rhubarb jam
A word of advice: If you (somehow) happen to find yourself with five punnets of almost-too-ripe strawberries on the morning of a wedding, and happen to be sick and in recovery on the Sunday immediately following, don’t toss them in a bag in the freezer without hulling them first.
Why? Because you may, like me, end up perched next to the sink on the following Saturday morning with almost a kilo of rock-solid, completely frozen strawberries to hull before you can do anything with them.
And, in the course of hulling said frozen strawberries (which now resemble dirty red blocks of ice), you may, say on the second strawberry, get distracted and stick the tip of a knife into your index finger.
Which is not so bad, seeing as your fingers are already frozen and therefore not likely to bleed badly. But which is also inconvenient as you then have to bandage said finger and wear latex gloves whilst cooking for the rest of the afternoon.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Following the hulling-before-freezing technique will, however, leave you with a very easy Saturday morning’s work that results in a lovely, ruby-red compote (which recipe will grace these pages soon) and four stout pots full of slightly chunky, slightly goopy, spicy, warming jam. Â Jam that tastes like the fruit from which it’s made, and not of bucketloads of sugar. Â Jam with a gloopy. slightly fibrous mouthfeel. and which doesn’t cut into neat cubes like the homogenised, gelatin-filled versions one may happen across at the shops.
Jam that, when fed to the Bean on the tip of a teaspoon, has her so excited that she clambers around looking for scones on which to eat it.
“Where’s the scones Cherlie?!” she will say, opening cupboards, fridges and drawers.
“There are none.” I will reply, forgetting the pumpkin scones, frozen for a rainy day.
“Well then!” she will reply, pulling out flour, butter and cream “I’ll just have to make some! Where’s your scone recipe huh?”
So the Bean made scones, and I made haste, for I was heading out to a housewarming that stormy Saturday afternoon. When I returned, fresh scones with cream! And half a bottle of jam already gone – eaten on said scones as well as slices of toast, salty water crackers and straight from the jar.
“You might make some more for your grandfather” said dad, having noticed the relative lack of sugar. (I know, 600g of sugar is a huge amount of sugar, but seeing as most jam recipes call for equal sugar:fruit ratios by mass, it’s a relative drop).
“Can I give some to my friends?” said mum, eyes harried at the thought of Â a four person household, three stout bottles of jam and a kitchen renovation en route.
“To whom?” said I.
“Away?” said dad.
“No way!” said the Bean.
And the matter has not been mentioned since. Â Particularly not since the second bottle was opened with a resounding “pop!”, and certainly not after half Â its contents disappeared in the hours after.
strawberry & rhubarb jam
Having only made jam twice previously, I was slightly concerned that my recipe wouldn’t result in a set jam. Â Strawberries are low in pectin, you see, and I wasn’t keen on adding the powdered version to my pot. Â The sugar content is also lower (due to the high blood sugar levels that run amok in our family), which had the potential to further upset the jam’s ability to set. Â No matter! Lemons to the rescue! Don’t skip this step as the seeds and rind contain natural pectin that will help the jam to set into a goopy mass – perfect for spreading on toast or dolloping on scones.
you will need:
400g rhubarb, chopped into 1cm pieces (1 medium bunch)
600g strawberries, hulled & halved (approx 3 punnets)
500g white sugar
100g brown sugar
2tsp ground nutmeg
4 jam bottles (300ml)
how to do it:
1. Wash the rhubarb, trim the poisonous leaves off and discard them. Â Chop the rhubarb up into 1-2cm lengths. Â Hull the strawberries & halve or quarter them so that they’re about the same size as the rhubarb chunks. Â If you want your jam a little chunkier, leave some whole.
2. Peel the lemons using a vegetable peeler. Â It’s ok to get a bit of pith at the same time in this recipe. Â Squeeze the lemons into a bowl lined with a chux wipe or piece of muslin. Â Bundle it up with a piece of string so that the cloth contains the seeds of three lemons, and the juice is left in the bowl.
3. Tip your fruit, sugar, lemon juice, lemon rind and nutmeg into a heavy bottomed pot and stir.
4. Turn up the heat. When the mixture bubbles and boils and froths up, turn the heat down and cook the jam gently over a lower heat for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.Â Whilst the jam is cooking, pop a plate into the freezer for testing the consistency of the jam later on. Â Wash your jam jars thoroughly with hot soapy water and dry upside down on a cake rack.
5. To test the jam, drop a spoonful on the cold plate and wait thirty seconds until the jam is cool to touch. Run your finger through the middle of the jam blob. Â If the jam stays in two separate blobs, it’s ready.
6. Ladle the jam into your pre-washed jars, filling to approximately 1.5cm from the top rim. Â Place the lids on. Â From here, you can either tip the jars on their heads and leave them until the seal pops in, or pasteurise them by wrapping the jars in cloth and popping them in a pot of boiling water for 15 minutes. Â If you pasteurise them by boiling, make sure the water level is always a couple of centimetres higher than the top of the jam jars and leave them to cool in the water before storing in your cupboard. Â The jam will keep for 2-3 months at room temperature when pasteurised.