Our allotment has been rather neglected over the last four weeks. Firstly the weather has not helped, has it. Any spare moment has not been the right moment! Away for a week in Scotland and a shoddy back all made for lots of thistles and weeds strangling all sorts of things!
Or strawberries had been green a couple of weeks ago and upon being there yesterday we found they had ripened, producing some amazing flavoured fruits but also some very bruised ones. So I decided to make a spot of jam! The flavour of homegrown, homemade jam is incomparable to shop bought, isn't it? And it is an easy process really. I know there to be a divide in using a pectin rich sugar. I like to use it, along with a little lemon juice. It preserves the wonderful fresh taste of the fruits because the cooking time is reduced dramatically. I also like to cut down on the sugar a little. The classic proportions are same weight of fruits and sugar but to give a softer set and a strong fruit flavour cut it down by about a tenth. This will give you more of a conserve, a softer set much like a French confiture.
The jam I made today was simple!
Juice of half a lemon
Hull the strawberries and cut in to 1/4's. Place in to a pan and place over a low heat and cook for 4-5 minutes just to start releasing the juices and soften the fruit a little.
Once the strawberries are soft, add the sugar and lemon. Make sure the sugar dissolves before turning up the heat and bubble the jam for about 6-8 minutes. Test the jam on a plate by placing a spoonful on to it, let it cool before pushing it with your finger to see if it wrinkles! If it does, it is ready!
Sterilize jars, either in the oven or microwave then pour in the jam, filling the jars right to the very top. Seal straight away. If you make sure the jam is hot and poured in to a hot jar, it will create a good vacuum and seal when it cools.
Label the jars! I never do, thinking I will know what everything is and can never remember!
Something that I really love with a drop of homemade jam is a loaf of homemade bread. I know that not all of us have the time or confidence to make all sorts of essentials like this but a loaf of bread is simple if you have a free 15 minutes plus proving time.
500g strong flour
2tsp easy blend yeast
1 tsp salt
360ml warm water
Stir together the flour, yeast and salt. Using a table knife, stir in the water until you have a lovely soft dough.
Kneading is always some thing that should be done with as little flour as possible. A dusting to begin with will suffice to get you started then knead vigorously with the heel of your hand. Don't let the dough get too sticky, just dust your hands very lightly if you need to! Knead for a good 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
For a quick loaf, shape the loaf, slashing the top and dusting with a little flour for a rustic look. Place the loaf on a tray then prove until about 3 times the size. Bake at 220°C for around 25 minutes until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
For a fuller flavour, prove the dough until at least doubled in size and then shape it and follow on from there!
Try kneading in some walnuts or dried fruits. It will take a little longer to prove but well worth the wait and truly lovely when toasted and buttered! Mmmmmmm!