Strawberries are usually in season in Bombay between the months of November and March. Around this time of the year the prices drop to a point where buying a ton of strawberries and making jam sounds like a very good idea.
This will now be the third consecutive year I’ve experimented with my jam recipe and honed it to a point where I’d like to share it with you.
Strawberries lack the pectin that makes jams firm and set in a jelly like way, so I decided to try using an apple to remedy this. Apples have a pretty high pectin level, and the more tart they ate, the higher the levels of pectin. I once used gooseberries (a fruit with an even higher pectin level), but the chunky bits of berry didn’t sit well with the texture of the strawberries.
It is a standard practice to skim away the froth that comes up onto the surface as the strawberries cook. Skimming it away also ensures that your jam jars aren’t lined with an ugly layer of froth once you pour the jam in. Layers of frothy air also possibly wouldn’t help with keeping the jam free of unwanted airborne infections.
One rather odd side effect of jamming with apples is that it turns the (otherwise white) froth a dirty brown. This is natural of course, as the oxidation of apples always makes them turn brown, which is only accelerated when it cooks.
I prefer making my jams with smaller quantities of sugar. You would probably get a more authentic thick and jammy consistency if you were to use a lot more sugar, but my personal preference is to use just the right amount of sugar to support the natural sweetness of the strawberries. You should only pick the ripest, juiciest and darkest strawberries to jam with.
One of my favourite parts of this process is the one where you macerate the strawberries by squishing them with the sugar with both hands till they’re chunky and swimming in their own juices. It is by far one of the most sensuous culinary experiences and leave you and your house smelling of strawberries and sweetness.
Making your own jam is super easy. The ingredients are all pretty straightforward (vanilla can be hard to acquire at short notice, but you should stock those once a year or make vanilla extract like I do ) and it only takes a little over an hour to make, so it makes for a pretty nice weekend experiment. Especially since it’ll yield the nicest home made jam to have with your breakfast in the week ahead.
1 Kg strawberries, hulled
150g sugar (brown/white/cane)
8 large leaves of mint
½ very green Granny Smith or any other very tart apple
2 vanilla pods/ 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Wash and dry the strawberries before hulling them. Weigh out a kilo and place them in a non-stick crockpot or wok.
- Add the sugar and lemon and use both hands to squish the strawberries into chunks. The larger the chunks the better.
- Put this on a low heat and add the vanilla (by scraping out the beans and also throwing them in; the empty pods can be removed once the jam is ready).
- Slice the apple as thinly as possible and toss it in with the strawberries. Drop the mint leaves whole.
- Using a teaspoon, skim away any froth that bubbles onto the surface.
- You’ll know the jam is done when it turns a very dark red colour and starts to thicken. Once it starts to stick to the bottom, un-stick it by stirring occasionally and cook for another five minutes.
- Take the jam off the heat and cool completely before transferring it into clean, sterilised jam jars.
- This recipe yields one large and one small jar of jam.
Note: You can also experiment with the types of mint you use. I’ve used spearmint once and it worked beautifully.