I like making jam. I love seeing rows of jars, full of sweet, fruity goodness, sitting in the cupboard. I love how much my hubby likes eating jam on toast. And I quite like eating jam myself.
I have been watching the rhubarb growing like mad, and keep wanting to make jam, but my strawberries are taking their time, and they are quite expensive to buy. So when I got a good offer on a couple of punnets of strawberries, I set out to make jam the next day. Strawberry and rhubarb is our favourite kind of jam, and since rhubarb is so easy to grow, it’s a cheap and tasty way of bumping up the fruit content. I don’t worry too much about ratios here, I guess ideally you’d want to go about half and half, but I just dump in what I’ve got. I picked all the ready rhubarb, and used 1 punnet of strawberries plus the handful I picked from the garden.
Now before we start, please bear in mind the importance of choosing the correct sized pan. If you make jam on a regular basis and know what works, then great. If you haven’t made jam in while and can’t remember what you did last time, or if this is your first time, let me tell you this. A standard-sized pressure cooker pan is too small for 3+ lbs of fruit. Having coated every available surface, including my own skin, with molten fruit and sugar, I feel I am within my rights to lecture you quite sternly about this. You need a large pan, but not so large it is too big to fit on the hob. If the base of the pan is bigger than your ring/hob then it will not get hot enough. You need a pan with a fairly solid base on it. And you need to make sure you don’t over-fill it. I’d say no more than 1/3 full when you have all your fruit and sugar in. Preferably less full. If you think you may have too much fruit, split it into 2 batches. It’s better to be safe than cleaning for a week.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s begin.
I used 1 lb 3 oz of strawberries and 2 lb of rhubarb. This is negotiable, as long as you use the same weight of sugar as fruit. I also use lemon juice, 1 tbsp/lb of fruit. You can use pectin if you like, just follow the instructions.
1 lb 3 oz strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 lb rhubarb, cut into 1/2 – 1 inch lengths
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 lb 3 oz sugar
Put the fruit and lemon juice in a pan, and heat over low – medium heat until the fruit begins to soften. Add the sugar and mix well. This next stage is important to stop the jam from burning. Keep the heat on medium and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. The best way to tell is to tap a wooden spoon on the base of the pan. If you can hear/feel the grainy texture of sugar, it has not dissolved. Once you’re sure it’s done, turn up to full heat. Put the jam thermometer in at this point, if you put it straight in at boiling point it may explode, and you don’t really want your jam laced with mercury. Keep boiling and stirring occasionally until the thermometer registers ‘Jam’ (107°C/225°F). At this point, remove the pan from the heat and allow the jam to cool slightly. This stops all the fruit from floating to the top of the jar later.
While waiting for the jam to boil, get the jam jars ready. It is really important to:
a) make sure the jars are clean
2) make sure the jars are hot so the hot jam doesn’t kill them
iii) heat the jars to kill bacteria
Wash the jars in hot soapy water and rinse well. Put them upside-down on a rack in the oven, on 100°C. Don’t put the lids in the oven as they usually have plastic seals in them. I find the best way to heat them is to put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them, then fish them out and put them on a clean tea towel to drain. When the jam is ready to jar up, pull the jars out of the oven (please be careful, especially if there are children or pets about, hot glass and hot jam could cause a really nasty accident) and put them on a heat-proof surface. My preference is a wooden chopping board. Give the jam a stir and pour it into a jug or something with a bit of a spout, then carefully fill the jars nearly to the top. Wipe away any spills with a clean, damp cloth and put the lids on. Hold the jar with a towel while you tighten the lid. Allow the jam to cool. This is my favourite part: if you have lids with the little press-button on top, these will ‘pop’ as the cooling jam creates a vacuum. Don’t panic if you hear a few popping noises coming from the kitchen! Once the jars are cool, label them with the type of jam and the date. If you have a jar that’s only half-full, keep it to one side as your tester jar!!