I am sat in the sun, on an allotment brick, next to my strawberries. They dangle over the edge of the bed, all glistening and scarlet in the sun, or lurk under the leaves, both provocative AND available. These are the fat fruit of summer, all luscious, warm and sweet. And I have hundreds of them! I love all this wanton abundance.
So once we have all eaten our fill, what to do with them all?
Well, I have made the best strawberry conserve ever, see recipe below.
Strawberries, small to medium size 450g
Lemon juice 2TB
About 4 jam jars with lids, plus waxed discs, selophane tops & rubber bands to seal
Prepare your jam jars by washing them in hot soapy water, then standing them on a small baking tray in a very low oven. I put an old tea towel under them so they don’t jostle or crack.
Remember to put a small plate into the fridge for when you are ready to check for setting point.
Wash and hull the strawbs.
Put the sugar and lemon juice into the pan, on very low heat, and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved, and you have a syrup. Remove from the heat.
Add the strawberries and stir gently until they are all covered in the syrup. Let them soak in the syrup for 20 – 30 minutes.
Return the pan to the heat and cook steadily for 5 – 7 minutes, until setting point is reached. (Put a dab of jam on the chilled plate, and push the surface gently with your finger. If it wrinkles, then setting point has been reached.)
Allow to cool a bit, stir to distribute the fruit, then spoon into the hot jars and seal down.
Intriguing variation: Marguerite Patten (‘Jams, Preserves, And Chutneys’, from The Basic Basics series) suggests using 4TB of redcurrant juice instead of the lemon. Press the redcurrants through a nylon sieve, then strain, to get clear juice.
Makes 750g of conserve.
The conserve is rather loose and full of fruit: perfect for scones & cream, filling Victoria Sandwiches, etc.
Strawberries have no natural pectin, which is why you add the lemon juice.
The method works well for all berries, as it prevents the fruit breaking up.