After our strawberry picking adventures at Chosen Hill Farm a few weeks ago, all I could think about as we drove home, the scent of strawberries thick and heady in the car, was making jam. Those berries smelled amazing, I just wanted to bottle the smell and save it forever. Well, for as long as jar of jam ever lasts!
Strawberry jam is a classic for very good reason–it’s such a pure and bright flavour–but I wanted to make it extra special by adding some vanilla. I’m sure that I’m not the first person to add vanilla to strawberry jam, after all strawberries taste amazing with Chantilly cream, but I felt like I’d made some alchemical discovery when I tasted the finished jam! The vanilla really kicks up the strawberry flavour.
I’m not ashamed to say that we all stood around the cooled pan, armed with spoons, and scraped the remnants from the pan and ladle. It was amazing, even better than the berries themselves!
The jam is absolutely delicious simply spread on hot buttered toast and sublime as part of a cream tea with . If a jar survives into autumn or winter, then I reckon it would taste fantastic dolloped on top of a bowl of rice pudding! Perhaps rippling it into ice-cream would be fun, or you know…you could just eat it from the jar with a spoon.
I’ve always been quite keen on making the occasional jar of jam and curd, but now I can easily see how people wind up with cupboards upon cupboards full of jam. I’m saving every jam jar and planning to go blackberrying very soon, as well as making some chutney. I’m going to turn into a crazy jam lady, aren’t I?
Strawberry and vanilla jam
(Adapted ever-so-slightly from Mary Berry’s excellent recipe.)
Makes 4 jars of jam.
1kg strawberries, rinsed, dabbed dry, and hulled
juice of one lemon
1kg jam sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
First things first, click through and watch the video that accompanies Mary Berry’s recipe. Making jam is such a visual thing, it’s hard to describe in words and the video really helps!
Put a couple of saucers into the freezer to chill. Wash and sterilise jam jars.
If the strawberries are large, cut them in half. The general rule of thumb is that the strawberries should be small enough to fit on top of a scone in the finished jam. Put the strawberries and lemon juice into a large pan. Heat for a few minutes to soften, add the vanilla paste and sugar and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Once the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is clear, boil steadily for about four minutes, or until at setting point. The jam should cook at a fast, rolling boil that you can’t stir down.
To test if the jam is at setting point, spoon a little onto a cold plate, leave for a minute and then push the jam with your finger. If the jam crinkles and separates without flooding back, setting point has been reached.
Set aside to cool for ten minutes. (This ensures that the strawberries will stay evenly suspended in the jam, rather than all bobbing to the top in the jar.) Spoon into sterilised jars, label and seal with wax paper and a lid. Leave to cool completely.