Strawberry season is a lovely time of year: warmth and sunshine, long days and summer parties. Sometimes you just wish it could last forever. Of course it can’t, but one way to extend the taste and memories of the season is to make jam.
Jam making is full of traditions and expectations. Many people (perhaps most) hear ‘home made jam’ and think of boiled fruit and glistening jars on the shelf. But in my family we always made ‘no-cook’ freezer jam. We used commercial pectin, it was quick, easy and worked every time. As a bonus, freezer jam requires less sugar than boiled jam, largely because the preserving aspect of the sugar is replaced by freezing.
So when I first moved to the UK, that’s what I did. But I’ve been experimenting with my jam recipes for quite a few years, generally aiming for a fruitier, less sugary taste, sometimes resulting in a sauce rather than a jam. There are several variables to consider with jam. Both pectin and sugar contribute to the ‘set’, with fruits having variable amounts of natural pectin in them. The more pectin, the less sugar needed to achieve a set. Jam from fruits low in pectin benefit from an addition of either commercial pectin or some other fruit which is high in pectin. I don’t use so-called ‘jam sugar’, which has pectin added, mainly because I’d rather make my own additions, in the proportions I see fit. Whereas standard boiled jam takes about twice as much sugar as fruit, I have settled on about equal quantities for my freezer jams, and I don’t always use commercial pectin.
Strawberries are pretty low in pectin, so this recipe depends on gooseberries for a light set–and I like the slightly more tart taste. If you want a firmer set, use more gooseberries. More gooseberries will also make it less sweet.
Makes 6 average sized jars.
|1 quart||Strawberries–ripe or slightly under-ripe|
|3 cups||(Granulated) sugar|
|1 cup or more||Fresh gooseberries|
|Up to 1/2 cup||Runny honey (optional)|
- Thoroughly wash jars or boxes and lids to be used. Sterilize if possible.
- Pick over berries and discard any damaged ones. (They might be edible, but don’t put them in the jam.)
- Rinse perfect strawberries and drain.
- Mash strawberries a few at a time; I always leave a few chunks. Measure and move to a large bowl, adding to them until you’ve got 3 cups of mashed berries.
- Stir in sugar until moistened. Leave to stand 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, remove stems from gooseberries and pierce the skins.
- Place in small saucepan with a splash of water. Bring gently to simmer.
- Cook gooseberries until they look ‘stewed’. This will only require a few minutes.
- Measure out at least one cup of hot gooseberries and add to strawberry/sugar mixture.
- Stir for at least 3 minutes, until no sugar crystals remain.
- For a flavour variation, add honey now.
- Pot up, leaving headroom for freezing.
- Leave to stand overnight/24 hours.
This jam will keep for up to 2 years in the freezer. Refrigerate once opened; it will keep up to three weeks. Not that either of those occasions is likely to arise!