Saturday, 12 April 2008

Strawberry Jam and Clotted Cream

Strawberry jam is worth making. For years I was under the impression that I didn't like strawberry jam, until one year I decided to make some for Christmas presents. Of course, I had to taste some - and the difference between this and mass market jam is just unbelievable. It's very simple and quick, too. And I found punnets of strawberries for a dollar apiece on Friday, so I just had to make some. Here's a basic recipe.

Recipe: Strawberry Jam

1 kg strawberries (cleaned weight)
1 kg white sugar
2 lemons
2 tablespoons cognac

Dehull the strawberries and cut off any nasty bits. Cut up if large. Put in a large preserve pan or stockpot, and add the sugar. Squeeze the lemons, put 1/4 cup of juice in with the strawberries. Wash the lemon skins and put them in the pan, too.

Bring to boil gently, and simmer for 5 minutes to soften the fruit. Raise the heat to boil. Test for set every couple of minutes, and when ready, turn of the heat. Let sit for ten minutes, then remove lemon rinds, add the cognac, stir well, and pour off into clean glass jars.

Notes:I got 1kg of strawberries from six 250g punnets of small berries. You can still use the bruised ones if you cut off all the bruised bits. Mould is a no-no. Some recipes tell you to skim off scum as jam is boiling. This is quite hard with strawberry jam as you get a great mountain of lurid pink foam in the first boil up. Just skim off any remaining white frothy bits after its ten minute rest.

The simplest way to test for setting is to shove a couple of saucers in the freezer. Drip a half a teaspoon or so of the syrup onto the saucer, pop it back in the freezer, and check it in a minute. If the surface wrinkles up, it's done. If it sets solid, it's overdone. If it's liquid, even if syrupy, it's not done yet. You could buy a jam thermometer, but I don't use them myself.

Clean glass jars can be soaked in a sink of hot water while the jam is cooking, then dried out in a warm oven. Or just dried with a clean tea towel. I've never had any problems with preserves going off from bad jars. The sugar is a heavy duty antibacterial preservative, as are the salt and vinegar you find in pickles and chutneys.

This is pretty much how I've always made my strawberry jam. I was tempted to try a variation, like using Jamsetta instead of the lemons, and a touch of balsamic vinegar instead of the cognac, but the classic appeal won for me today.

And now I must eat some for afternoon tea, even though I am going out to dinner. With clotted cream, which came from the shiny new Manuka Wine and Cheese Providore. On bread, because I can't be bothered making scones or pikelets right now. It's a nice grainy bread from Le Croissant d'Or, whose wonderful patisserie and bread are now being sold in Manuka through the Wine and Cheese Providore.

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