Well, dear Reader, it would seem that I have been burning the candle at both ends somewhat of late and I have been riddled with summer flu. Ridiculous! How can one possibly catch flu in the summer? Feeling utterly useless and wishing I could pull the duvet over my head, I coordinated last minute moving jobs from the sofa and put myself to bed with a whisky (purely medicinal of course). That was until the cavalry arrived (in the form of my dear Mamma) or so I thought….. On second glance, I realised that instead of chicken soup and chocolate, she was armed with a jam pan and a copy of one of my childhood culinary favourites, The Good Housekeeping Step by Step Cook book. Even now, I am still strangely fascinated by this glossy tome which
features none other than a recipe for ghoulish sounding Duck in Aspic amongst all kinds of 1970s dinner party disaster menus. The purpose of the cook book’s outing: to make a jam maker of me. My mother is known for her pots of jam littering the larder and her staunch belief that jam can last years and years! Many a breakfast has been spent opening jars to reveal green and blue hues of mould and dear Papa is always threatening to throw out the ‘collection’. I seriously think that there could even be a jar in the pantry from my teenage days……definitely not as palatable as a vintage Margaux!
So, dear Reader, I found myself standing in my kitchen in my jim jams with Poppy in hers too, thinking about how I was going to deal with 3lbs of strawberries and my Mamma’s overexcited enthusiasm for turning me into a preserving queen.
Here’s our version of Margot’s Strawberry and Lavender jam
1kg strawberries (leave them whole – freshly picked fruit is better for this, if you can get it or grow it)
600g preserving sugar
350g caster sugar
2 lavender flower heads
Heat the jam pan and add all the strawberries and sugar and stir together. Leaving the strawberries whole gives a more ‘conserve’ style of jam which can be used for cakes, scones and of course, hot buttered toast. The strawberries being a soft fruit will break up a bit anyway as you stir them. Wait until all the sugar has dissolved until you add the lemon juice (lemon juice gives a helping hand as strawberries are notoriously low in pectin so I am told). Stir frequently to stop anything catching on the bottom and simmer gently for approximately 7 minutes. Then allow mixture to come to the boil. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes. Test for setting point by dropping some jam onto a cold spoon. Wait for it to cool and then push the jam with your finger – if it crinkles, it has reached setting point. Wash jars and then place them in a hot oven to sterilise before pouring in the jam (stirring through any scum that may have formed on the top). Add the lavender flowers at the very end, stirring through the pot to make sure they are evenly spread. The lavender is there for fragrance and delicate flavour – try not to be too heavy handed with it though as otherwise you will end up with jammy pot pourri! Seal the jars – jar can be kept for up to 12 months. Refrigerate once opened.
What could be more summery than luscious rosy ripe strawberry jam slathered on a buttery scones piled high with cream and extra strawberries?!! Certainly a diet fail but the perfect accompaniment to watching Wimbledon and the best antidote to a spot of summer flu I can assure you.
With some leftover rhubarb, we even had a go at some experimental ‘Jarmalade’ – yes, you guessed it, a jam/marmalade hybrid with rhubarb and orange. Dear Reader, to be honest I think that Mamma and I got a bit carried away with the preserving at this point as we were thinking up all sorts of combinations. Thank goodness Jerry arrived home just in time before I managed to populate the whole kitchen with pots of jam. His first thought was that the removal men would be boxing up at least one whole box of jam…….oh my, dear Reader, it would appear that I may have inherited that jam hoarding gene after all! Perhaps I could endear myself to neighbours in our new village with gifts of jam……?!