Last week was Graduation Week here in St Andrews (I graduated on Wednesday, which means that, for now at least, I’m suddenly no longer a student – my gosh, how did this happen?!), so things over the last two weeks have been rather on the hectic side. There’s been a lot of running around, various half-hearted attempts at packing, meeting up with people for one last coffee/game of pool/drink/lunch, etc., a lot of celebrating and many goodbyes. On top of all of that, my laptop is very rapidly nearing the end of its lifespan, resulting in a lot of frustration whenever I try and write anything up (if you’re familiar with the Blue Screen of Death or the Black Screen of Incomprehensible Scrolling Text, then you’ll know what I mean). So my rather rambly point is that I’m afraid I’ve neglected my poor blog somewhat, resulting in a slight back-log of recipes, including this lovely jam that I made just over two weeks ago.
Now, I love home-made jam (who doesn’t?!) and it always reminds me of making jam during summer holidays at my French grand-parents house when I was younger using the fruit from their garden. My French grandma had an ancient (to me) pair of kitchen scales that you had to balance out using weights and so on, and I thought that they were great fun to play with. So actually, what really happened was that I played with the scales and generally got in the way and probably ate a fair proportion of the fruit, my mum did all the hard work of actually making the jam (stirring, pressing, etc.), my grandma sat at the table and probably told me off for getting in the way and mucking around and occasionally helping my mum, and my grandpa went off gallivanting in the garden. The end product was jam though, and gosh was it good jam! Unfortunately, we haven’t made jam since I was about 15 or 16, because my French grandparent’s house has been sold now, and we don’t have a garden in Edinburgh, nor do I have one in St Andrews. Sad times.
My mum suggested that we make strawberry jam last summer, but I’m not really a huge fan of strawberry jam – I often find it a little too sweet and I’m not too keen on the big lumpy bits that you often get (picky? Me?), so that didn’t end up happening. However, we’ve had a lot of really tasty strawberries this year, and when I saw a recipe for strawberry & Pimm’s jam in BBC Good Food, I absolutely had to try it. Now, I don’t know about you, but in my world (and most of St Andrews) it’s pretty much always Pimm’s o’clock. Never mind that the recipe was still for strawberry jam, strawberry and Pimm’s is a fabulous combination, and it sounded delicious. I’m also submitting this recipe to this month’s Simple and in Season blog event, even though I already used strawberries for the same event last month. But they’re so delicious and still seasonal, so I’m not too bothered!
I won’t lie to you, I was a little bit nervous about making jam by myself – I’ve only ever been involved in making jam when there have been other people around who actually know what they’re doing. But the recipe looked straightforward and detailed enough, there was no straining fruit through muslin or anything, and I even have a sugar/jam thermometer, so I took advantage of Tesco’s apparent failure to estimate the quantities of strawberries they would sell and snapped up a lot of very tasty strawberries at super-reduced prices. Win! The jam turned out to be really quite easy. Yes, you do have to watch the temperature a bit, and I did think the jam was going to bubble over the top of the pot at one point (it didn’t), but there was nothing especially difficult to do. Jam-making is as much fun and smells as wonderful as I remember! And the jam turned out to be rather delicious – the Pimm’s comes as more of a subtle after-taste and also means that the jam isn’t too sweet at all, and I made sure to mash it up a bit at the end to avoid the lumpy bits that I don’t like. If you’re not keen on having alcohol at breakfast time, this jam would go wonderfully on scones for afternoon tea. Or served with Pimm’s. Yummy…
Strawberry & Pimm’s jam
Makes just under 6 x 350g jars
Adapted from BBC Good Food (June 2011)
This is a soft-set jam, presumably mostly as a result of the added Pimm’s and gin. It is wonderful for breakfast, but would also be delicious on scones with afternoon tea or served with a pitcher of Pimm’s. To sterilise the jars, wash the jars and lids in hot, soapy water before placing on a baking tray and placing in an oven on low heat until fully dried (about 10 mins or so). Apparently choosing just-ripe strawberries will help the jam set, though the ones I used were quite ripe and the jam worked absolutely fine.
1.5 kg strawberries
1 kg jam sugar
4 tbsp Pimm’s No. 1 cup
1 tbsp gin
1. Place a few saucers in the freezer to be used later (I ended up using 4 or 5).
2. Hull and halve or quarter the strawberries, depending on how large they are. Place them in a preserving pan or large pot (the jam will increase in volume when bubbling away, so make sure the strawberries only come half-way up the side of the pot or so). Using a potato masher, give the strawberries a good mashing until quite juicy (if you like lumpy jam then don’t mash too much). Stir in the sugar and place the pan over a low flame, stirring occasionally, and taking care that the jam does not boil.
3. Once all the sugar has dissolved, stir in the juice from the lemons and orange and turn up the heat. Once a fast boil – 105°C on a preserving thermometer – has been reached, time the jam for 10 mins. After 10 mins, place 1 tsp of jam onto one of the frozen saucers and place in the fridge (allow the jam to continue on fast boil). After 1 min in the fridge, push your finger through the jam on the saucer. If the jam wrinkles (this may sound strange, but you’ll be able to tell exactly what I mean when it happens), then it is ready. If not, allow the jam to continue on fast boil for a further 2 mins before testing again. As soon as the jam is ready, remove the pan from the heat.
4. Allow to cool for 30 mins, then skim away any scum from the top of the jam. Mash the jam slightly more if necessary (this depends on your taste), before stirring in the Pimm’s and gin. Ladle the jam into sterilised jars (a jam funnel helps considerably).