Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Strawberry Jam

The Simplest of Strawberry Jams 

Of Fruit preserves, Jams and Jellies 

Most of us , well at least most people I know have at some point in their lives started their days with a table laden with fresh slices of bread, a bowl of softened butter and a variety of those delicious fruity delights. Why silly? The jams and jellies of course. Of course it is through these meals that one might have gotten her ears pulled for using the butter-knife in the jam jar or worse licking the spoon of jammy deliciousness and trying to put it back in the jar.

Of course then we suddenly grew up and at some point cornflakes suddenly started dominating the breakfast table and soon enough the elaborate affairs of breakfasts were reduced to a quick but filling start of the day with muesli because well we all want to be healthy so how could sticky fruit preserves win over healthy muesli. It came to a point where Jams became a part of special occasions say the spread for the Victorian Sponge Cake, the rare picnic or carried for treks.

To be fair I usually stay away from Jams because of the quantity of sugar that goes in it. I mean sure one can use honey but it would not be the same. Honey has this ability to impart its flavour to anything it is used in and I would hate for my peachy preserve to have a similar taste of my Strawberry Jams.

They say curiosity kills the cat . In recent times shelves of many a store is lined with confusing labels. So it is not enough that there are Jams and Jellies now there are conserves and preserves and compotes as well. While curiosity did not kill me , it certainly made me a bit confused. You see I have need to know everything there is to know about a dish I cook and so my first step was to know the difference between Jams, Jellies, Conserves, preserves etc.

While the difference between Jams and jellies and marmalade  is the easiest. In very simple terms Marmalade means citrus fruits alone, Jellies use the juice of fruits alone and so Jams should naturally mean something which has fruits. Low and behold that is not that simple.

While good Jellies have been described as "clear and sparkling  and has a fresh flavour of the fruit from which it is made. It is tender enough to quiver when moved, but holds angles when cut" Marmalade is 'fruit preserve made from the juice and peels of citrus fruits"  but Jams , they are supposed to have a "soft even consistency without distinct pieces of fruit , a bright colour, a good fruit flavour and a semi-jellied texture that is easy to spread but has no free liquid" but a conserve is a "whole fruit jam'.

So to my understanding a Jam must not have any pieces of fruit once cooked but a conserve will have pieces but then searching for a recipe for Strawberry jams it is astonishing that most uses fruit pieces which after cooking leave behind little cooked pieces as well. Now even if you have never made Jams I am sure you must be knowing how you like your jam. I personally prefer mine to be less sweet , firm and thick with little pieces of fruit.

So here comes the simplest of strawberry jams or preserves recipes

You need

1 kilogram of Strawberry
750gm of sugar
Juice from 1.5 small sized lemon

Soak the whole fruits in water to remove all dirt 

Now before you get started there are just a few things to be kept in mind:-

  1. Jams need pectin for its setting which doesn't mean you have to use any store bought pectin. Fruits usually have a certain amount of pectin which works with the acid (lemon ) to give you that set Jam
  2. Choose unripe or just ripe strawberries since overripe strawberries have lesser quantity of pectin

Start the night before. Wash the fruit by soaking it in a bowl of water to remove all dirt . Remove stalks of the fruit and chop them in small sized pieces. Make sure to discard any soft fruit and if a fruit has marks on the body slice it and throw that part away.

Put them in a large , heavy bottomed pot and mix 500gm of granulated sugar with the pieces of fruit and simply let it rest covered for the night.                                                                                                          When making the Jam the next day the first thing you must do is put a plate made of steel in the freezer to test the Jam when it sets and then mix the rest of the sugar and juice of lemon with the fruits which by now will be in a mass of liquid and slowly heat it (low heat) till all the sugar dissolves and then bring to a roaring boil and then keep boiling for the next 20 minutes  checking every 10 minute and remove the scum(foam) that forms on top. Do not overcook your Jam else you loose flavour. So you should never cook the Jam over a total of 40 minutes.

All the scum must be removed

At 25 minutes check if the jam has set by simply dropping a spoonful on the plate from the freezer and wait a few seconds and touch with your fingers. If the jam wrinkles on your touch it has set and you have to simply cool the Jam for 25 minutes before spooning it in sterilized Jars else keep boiling for another 10 minutes. It personally took me 35 minutes for the Jam to reach its setting point and of course another 25 minutes of cooling .

Enjoy this lovely Jam with fresh bread, sponge cakes or buns

Source of information: Wikipedia , BBC

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