Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Summer Sunshine

Well, these past few days have seen us making up for all the recent rain and having glorious sunshine to enjoy, although to be honest, the mornings have still been quite chilly! I have noticed a fresh crop of wasps making their presence known around the gardens and yesterday, up at work in the big kitchen, I killed no less than three of the little monsters that were threatening my safety and trying to get at my fresh Banana Loaf! We have a big problem with wasps here as we are surrounded by fruit orchards. I guess it's a small price to pay for having all those lovely drops to pick up in the autumn!

Hot August days always meant one thing when I was bringing up my family. Preserving time! Every year I put up jars and jars of pickles, jams, jelly's and preserves. Those days my kitchen would be full of the smells of vinegar and spice and the sweet delicious smell of boiling fruits. Now that there is just Todd and I, there is not the requirement for all those lovely pickles and relishes. Not only do I not have the storage space, but we would never get through them in a million years, ahhhhh ... but I do miss them.

We can use up a bit of this jam though, and so yesterday I made some fresh strawberry preserves. I know we are still trying to use up the raspberry ones I made last year, but with the price of berries so low in the stores right now, I just couldn't resist! It was especially lovely last evening, spread onto two halves of a freshly baked scone ... a dab of clotted cream on top, it's delicious finishing touch!

*Classic Strawberry Jam*
Makes 6 pints

Simple and delicious, this jam recipe doesn’t use any pectin to help it jell. Instead, you must rely on your own talents for judging when it is done. Don’t worry, it’s not really that hard to do!

9 cups fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
4 cups white sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 TBS unsalted butter (optional)

Put the strawberries into a large saucepan. Bring them to a simmer over medium low heat, mashing them roughly with a potato masher or the back of a large flat spoon. Stir in the sugar and the lemon juice. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the butter, if using, and then bring it to a vigorous boil, stirring often. Cook for ten to twenty minutes, measuring the viscosity of the jam periodically by dropping a spoonful onto a glass plate and tipping the plate. Once the jam slows it’s drip down the plate and no longer runs like a syrup it is done.
Remove the jam from the heat and skim off any foam that rises to the top carefully with a metal spoon.

Make sure you have six pint jars waiting that have been washed in good clean soapy water and rinsed really well. I like to sterilize mine in a hot oven by placing the jars on a baking tray and popping them into a moderate oven for about 10 minutes. Fill the jars with the hot jam to within ¼ inch of the top. Make sure the edges of the jars are clean from any jam, wiping them clean if needed, with a clean damp cloth. Place lids on the jars and close tightly.

Place the jars in a pot large enough to hold them, and cover with boiling water, making sure the jars are completely submerged. Boil for 15 minutes. Remove jars with tongs and cool upright on a wire rack. Check for secure seals on jars (lid should not spring when touched) and store in a cool place away from light for up to a year. Any jars that do not seal should be refrigerated and used up first.

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