I got a rather large delivery of Sweet Eve strawberries recently – a new variety that’s been developed by a British farmer who wanted a fruit with a sweeter, fuller flavour.
The first thing that struck me was how flawless they looked – scarlet red with taut glossy skin. The aroma is super sweet and the flavour makes eating them in a frenzied manner rather compulsive. Not at all sharp and so very suited to children’s tastebuds – Matthew and Arlo made short work of the first punnet. The strawbs I’ve been buying from the supermarket have been a bit on the mushy side of late, and seem to go off in record time, so I was delighted with these specimens.
Faced with more fruit than we could feasibly eat in a short space of time, I decided the best thing to do was make jam. Coming to the end of term there are teachers’ gifts to come up with, not to mention a flurry of visits to relatives over the holidays, and what better gift to give than summery strawberry jam.
I’ve never attempted to make strawberry jam before, largely because i’d heard how hard it is. The main issue being it’s not got a lot of pectin in so it’s tricksy to get it to set. This is my main concern when it comes to jam. I normally pace the kitchen with a big frown as I wait for my bubbling vat of hot fruit to reach setting point. But no, I wouldn’t let this defeat me.
To get around the lack of pectin, Vivien Lloyd’s recipe for strawberry jam calls for pectin stock. This basically means simmering gooseberries or red currants with water and then straining the liquid. Both fruits are very rich in pectin, so adding some of this stock to your strawberries gives your jam that extra boost to drive it to setting point – and i’m very pleased to say it worked!
I was keen to pair the strawberries with fresh mint after being inspired by Viv’s masterclass last month when she showed us how to introduce extra flavours. A quick tweet to Viv to ask how much herb I should use, and I was away. Viv is @VivienLloyd on twitter and is brilliant at answering any preserving questions that might be troubling you.
Strawberry and Mint jam recipe adapted from Vivien Lloyd’s First Preserves
for the pectin stock
1kg gooseberries or 1.4kg red currants
for the jam
1.58 kg strawberries, stalks removed
1.4 kg granulated sugar
5g fresh mint, leaves only no stalks
1. First make the pectin stock by simmering the fruit in the water until it’s softened right down into a mush. Strain it through a piece of muslin in a sieve, or through a jelly strainer. Freeze any leftover stock once you’ve measured out 400ml that you need for this recipe.
2. Prepare the strawberries then pop them into a large preserving pan. Put your mint leaves into a square of muslin, tie it up securely then hang over the side of the pan with some string so it nestles in with the fruit. Simmer over a low heat until the fruit softens and reduced down – this should take around 20 minutes.
3. Pour in 400ml pectin stock and simmer for a further 20 minutes. Meanwhile warm the sugar in a casserole dish in the oven (about 140C) for about 10 minutes. Take out and then put your freshly washed jam jars in the oven for 15 minutes.
4. Remove the bag of mint, then stir the warmed sugar into the jam pan and stir well until it’s all dissolved. Turn up the heat and bring the jam to a rolling boil. After 5 minutes start testing to see if setting point has been reached – see my guide for testing here – and keep boiling until you’re happy you’ve got a set as it can sometimes take longer than that.
5. Remove from heat and allow to settle for a few minutes. Sweep away the foamy residue from the surface to one side using a metal spoon, then scoop it out into a little ramekin.
6. Line up your jars and then pour in your jam and seal immediately. Give them a wipe to remove any splodges, and then allow to cool before labelling.
I saved my ramekin of frothy residue (I don’t really want to call it scum as it makes it sound nasty, when in fact it’s glorious) for breakfast when I slathered it onto hot buttered crumpets…
If you like the sound of Sweet Eve strawberries you can get hold of them in Booths, Co-Op, M&S Foodhalls, Ocado, Tesco and Waitrose. Thanks to Sweet Eve for sending me the samples.
If you fancy winning a copy of Vivien Lloyd’s First Preserves enter my competition >>>
I’ve been a bit slack about entering blogging events lately, so I hereby put this forward for two:
And for Helen at Fuss Free Flavours‘ brilliant Breakfast Club - which this month has the theme of holiday. I shall certainly be taking a jar of this jam away with us this summer for our holiday breakfasts, so hope this qualifies!