The path to the best damned strawberry jam you ever had is easy, with only one rule to remember: small batches, quickly. That’s it! No magic ingredient, no Iron Chef skill, no banging around.
Waiting for a glut is the worst time to make strawberry jam. As soon as you increase quantities, cooking time increases, and your window of opportunity to make the queen of all jams slams shut, shaking the frame a little. Instead of the remarkably fresh flavour of this jam, you’ll have cloying sweetness. Instead of a glorious ruby red, the jam will be dark and impenetrable. And instead of gorgeous chunks of candied strawberry on your piece of bread, you’ll just have a smooth mass, since the longer cooking time will break the fruit down. (If ever you have a glut of strawberries that need to be preserved, I strongly recommend the freezer. They may lose texture but not flavour, and your options for using them are much wider; you can even make jam from a cup or two of the frozen fruit.)
I’m not a microwave devotee by any means, but I’ll go on the record as saying that this jam is better than anything you could ever make on the stove. Truly-rooly. Hand on my heart. It illustrates the best thing about preserving in the mikey: freshness and spontaneity. Have a punnet of strawberries? Make jam! One punnet is just enough to make one decent-sized jar, or two smaller ones, in the time it takes for you to have a cup of tea, and indeed, you can sip your tea as you work.
So you can make a jar. Make one often. And you’ll thereafter wonder what the heck that stuff on the supermarket shelves is. And presented with even the most expensive commercial “gourmet” jam, oh, how you’ll scoff.
|Local winter strawberries: they weren't ever going to be good eating - at least, not without some serious doctoring - but they make a jam that is far greater than the sum of its parts.|
|No, put the spoon and the clotted cream down, you can't eat them yet.|
|The bigger the bowl the better, and if it's bigger than this, great. Seriously. As big as will fit in your microwave, no matter how small the batch of jam is. The reason why is visible on the sides of this bowl.|
|These viscous bubbles, along with the spoon test and…|
|… the saucer test, means that…|
|… the jam is ready to pot up.|
THE BEST DAMNED STRAWBERRY JAM YOU EVER HAD
(makes 1 medium or 2 small jars)
250g. strawberries (2 cups approx.)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tbsp. lemon juice
What you do:
1. Hull strawberries and cut any extra-large ones in half. Put them in a large microwave-safe bowl with sugar and lemon juice. Cover, and cook on HIGH for 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve sugar.