Today I made an amazing homemade Strawberry Jam! It’s something to feel really good about and that sense of achievement won’t just fade away as today passes into tomorrow and the next day. The sense of accomplishment will be there every time the jam is used, or even visibly noted on the fridge shelf. A wee spark of brightness and a momentary lift in mood. I rarely make jam these days, this household doesn’t eat much jam and, like pickles, the commercial varieties leave a great deal to be desired, so I make small batches of my own when I need to.
I’m very fortunate to have taken an interest in learning how to make and do for the home when I was younger. Although the need to do so was mostly due to poverty, the sense of accomplishment I found in being able to create needed items or food stuffs from cheap, readily available products, almost intoxicating at times. I was the scapegoat of the family, always somehow wrong and incapable, so to discover I could do things of value for myself and for those I might share my creations with, was truly wonderful. There are times when I can still gaze upon a finished garment, baked goods, or bottled condiment with wonder at the fact that ‘I made that!’.
This project came about due to a discussion about not having any strawberry jam to add to the last Victoria Sponge I made. The traditional filling is strawberry jam and cream with a dusting of icing sugar on top. I enjoy it without the additions and don’t usually add any jam. Part way through the discussion, an email came in from the fruit and vege store I get deliveries from. They had a particularly good special on strawberries, so it seemed like a great opportunity to add some tasty jam to the pantry.
Because it has been about 20 years since I last made Strawberry Jam, I looked up the internet to compare with my 1970 edition of The Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook. The version I found online took a slightly different approach, and, having seen the effects of using maceration on a couple of other projects, decided to go with the modern recipe from The Australian Women’s Weekly Food site. Again, like the pickles, it meant prepping the berries and sprinkling them with sugar to draw out their juices in the fridge overnight. A punnet of strawberries is considered to be 250 gms. I used 2 kg of berries, and slightly reduced the amount of sugar to suit my taste.
The amount of juice drawn out by the sugar was quite astounding and the kitchen smelled so nice! There was no water added, that is all juice from the strawberries themselves. You can still see some of the sugar sitting across the top of the berries.
Although not included in the recipe, for me, the process has a few extra steps. For reasons, I need to remove the seeds. To do this efficiently, the berries are boiled in their juice (before the pectin is added) until really soft, then cooled a bit so I can blend it with a stick blender.
When this cools enough to handle safely, I strain it through a drum sieve to remove the seeds. There’s so many wee seeds that it usually means I have to wash the sieve half way through the first pass, which gets tedious, but is worth the effort in the long run. Then I wash everything to remove stray seeds and pass the berry liquid through the drum sieve again just to be sure I’ve got them all. The berry liquid then goes back into the cooking pot along with the pectin and the remaining sugar to continue the cooking process.
I have a few different types of strainers to allow me to use teeny tiny spice seeds, like mustard seeds, for flavour and still remove them easily. I use a large mesh tea infuser ball for the spices when making Corned Beef. It means I don’t become ill from the ingestion of seeds, and I get to eat yummy foods I otherwise have to avoid.
While the cooking part is taking place, the steamer is doing it’s duty sterilising the jars and lids from my store of clean, saved jars. You can use other methods to sterilise jars though.
For filling the jars, I use a ladle and a metal funnel with a handle, which makes things much easier and with less cleaning up.
The cost of the project, while truly priceless because it’s the only strawberry jam I can actually consume, ended up being roughly $15 for 9 jars. The jam is simply lovely, with a strong strawberry flavour and fragrance. Delicious on buttered bread, quite awesome with a dob of cream on scones, there’s enough of it to have on the next Victoria Sponge too.