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Strawberry Jam

My biggest issue with strawberry jam is that mine never sets properly. My old edition of Joy of Cooking warns not to cook ‘Red Red Strawberry Jam’ for more than 15 minutes. It evens warns me to set a timer. This must be in order not to lose the luscious ruby pink of fresh strawberries, which will darken and brown slightly with cooking. It might also ensure that the aroma stays fresh. The sacrifice is in the set, though I suppose I could use bottled pectin if I wanted to, but there is that strain of puritanical thought that restrains me. So every year I make runny, but delicious strawberry jam. It may be that mine is a textbook example anyway, as I would imagine that those few detestable individuals who make pert, globbable strawberry jam are in a tiny, isolated minority. The lemon juice is important because it does contain a bit of pectin and it prevents the jam from becoming cloyingly sweet – like those goody-two-shoes who make blobby jam.

Ingredients:

1kg ripe strawberries

750g sugar (jam sugar if you can find it)

Juice of one lemon

Method:

Hull the strawberries and mash them into a pulp with the lemon juice and the sugar in a heavy pan.

Boil the jam for no more than 15 minutes. Refrain from stirring except to check for sticking. Check the setting point by dribbling the jam on a cold saucer. If the jam wrinkles when it is nudged with a dry finger, then it will set properly. Good luck ever getting it to this stage. Mine never wrinkles.

While the jam cooks, sanitize the jars and lids by filling them with boiling water or by baking them in the oven.

Turn off the heat and skim the jam. Pour into the jars, cover with a disc of waxed paper and seal. Once they’re cool, label and store them. This recipe made almost five 350g jars this year.

The ‘skimmings’ are edible, so don’t toss them away! Kids especially love the pink, foamy sweet stuff on toast. I ate this year’s skimmings on crumpets. Yum.

You can use fancy jars or gingham covers if you’re one of those kind of people. If you are, you probably get your jam to set as well. Don’t bring me any. I don’t want to know you.

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