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How to make Strawberry Jam that sets

Updated on August 11, 2009

Strawberries - the taste of summer

Strawberry Jam - what a treat. Strawberry is the perfect summer flavour, and strawberry jam the ideal way to capture it for the darker winter months.

The sun is shining, the sky is blue (or only a little bit grey), and the strawberries are here. Not the air freighted insipid out of season strawberries that we get all year round, but the real deal - crimson and delicious, bursting with flavour and fresh from the farmer's field.

If you are lucky enough to have a fruit farm nearby then make the most of it. Strawberries and cream. Strawberry ice cream. Strawberry granita. And lots lots more.

But of course the season is so short, and if you want a bit of strawberry delight in the darker winter months without that multiple airmile disappointment from the overpackaged supermarket shelf, you need to make jam. Once you have made jam, shop bought stuff will never darken your toast or scone again. It really is the business. A homemade cake filled with homemade jam... does life get very much better than that?

Strawberry jam can be tricky to set
Strawberry jam can be tricky to set

Help - My Strawberry Jam does not set

If you are new to jam making (or even if you have been at it for years) you may happily embark on the jam making process, do exactly what the recipe books say, stir (or not) depending on your recipe book, time it boiling, pour it cheerfully into clean jars... only to find that you have made strawberry soup, which no more ressembles jam than a glass of orange squash ressembles marmalade.

Undaunted you pretend you don't mind, and the family grimfaced spend a year balancing this red liquid on their toast, maintaining complete horizontal, or risk losing their precious cargo back onto the plate.

Boo hiss. So what went wrong? Bottom line is, strawberry jam is a pain in the backside to set. All that lovely rainwater that keeps the plants healthy and swells the fruit is exactly what you don't want for sticky jam setting. It dilutes the natural pectins in the fruit and gives you strawberry slop - delicious but no village fete prizewinner.

How to make Strawberry Jam set - top tips

 Top Tips

  1. Do not wash strawberries - the heat from the cooking will purify them.  if you must wash it, spread it out afterwards on tea towels to dry thoroughly.
  2. Do not attempt to make jam after it has rained heavily and the fruit is wet.
  3. Wipe the fruit down to remove any surface moisture - the extra moisture will dilute the pectin even further and make setting even more difficult.
  4. Do not be tempted by the punnets and trays of overripe fruit sold for 'jam making'.  Under-ripe fruit has a lot more fruit acid and pectin in it than overripe fruit, which will yeild disappointing results.
  5. Never try to make jam in too large quantities.  A huge vat of the stuff takes a long time to come to the boil and may not reach the required temperature to make a good set.

Basic Strawberry Jam recipe

4lb Slightly underripe and dry strawberries

3lb Sugar - granulated is fine - preserving sugar is unneccessarily expensive!

Juice of 3 large lemons

1/2 oz butter (to remove any scum that forms)

Method:

Remove stalks and leaves and wipe fruit as dry as possible. Place the fruit in your pan(s) with the sugar and leave overnight. When you come back to it the sugar will almost have dissolved.

Place pan over a low heat to melt the remaining sugar and once the sugar has dissolved, add the lemon juice.

Now crank the heat up high and once you have it really bubbling hard, time it for 10 minutes.

Test it by spooning a little onto a chilled plate. If it makes a crinkly skin which you push at it with your little finger it is ready and will set. If not then boil it for another 5 minutes. Test again, and repeat the process for another 5 minutes. You may need to do this three or four times.

Guaranteed set for the impatient cook

If the elements conspire against you, or you are just too impatient to dry all the fruit, or boil reboil, test and retest, you might need a bit of extra help. i am not a big fan of shop bought pectin. It is expensive and always seems to me to be cheating. The delight of homemade jam is that it is simply fruit and sugar.

So, the alternative is to add a little bit of another fruit which has a much higher acid and pectin content which will help out.

This top tip came form my great grandmother who has scrawled in the margin of a very old recipe book, against the strawberry jam recipe above 'does not set - add 1/3 pint (200ml) stewed rhubard and boil 20 minutes'  No messing about from Great granny here.  She wasn't boiling and testing and mucking about.  After all she had washing to put through the mangle and bread to knead, and a grate to clean...

And as ever, great -granny knows best, and the best thing is that the rhubard disintegrates and disappears into the jam so nobody will ever know that's how you did it.

You can also use gooseberries, although they are a little less effective and a little more visible. Sometimes I also use raspberries and do a mixed berry jam, of half and half, which the children love and which is a good reliable favourite.

Great Granny's Strawberry Jam that Sets

So, here is the revised recipe, just like Great Granny used to make:

4lb Slightly underripe and dry strawberries

3lb Sugar - granulated is fine - preserving sugar is unneccessarily expensive!

Juice of 3 large lemons

1/2 oz butter (to remove any scum that forms)

1/3 pint (200ml) stewed rhubard

Method:

Place pan over a low heat to melt the remaining sugar and once the sugar has dissolved, add the lemon juice.

Now crank the heat up high and boil for 20 minutes

Pour into jars

Eat

Enjoy!

Comments

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    • profile image

      CHRISTINE 6 years ago

      CAN YOU RE-BOIL THE "STRAWBERRY SOUP" AFTER IT HAS SAT AT ROOM TEMPERATURE X 24HRS IN ORDER TO GET IT TO GEL?

    • profile image

      Dorsetboy 6 years ago

      I wish I had read up on the rhubarb trick before embarking on the strawberry jam fiasco!!

    • PaperNotes profile image

      PaperNotes 7 years ago

      I love putting strawberry jam on my vanilla ice cream. Thanks for this.

    • profile image

      Julie Keeler 7 years ago

      I had a problem getting my strawberry jam to set I tried adding lemon juice boiling for want seemed hours but my mother in law gave me a trip to add a cube or 2 or more if required of strawberry jelly & cook it for 5 - 10 mins it worked a dream the jam set a treat.

    • profile image

      Rachel 7 years ago

      Well I did buy punnets and punnets of marked down strawberries.

      I know I are a bag Domesticated girlie and should be shot for trying to be frugal.

      anyhew as I now have straberry soup, could I pop it all back in the pan re bring to the boil and add the rubarb?

      would that be ok or if not do I make enough ice-cream so sink the world?

      :-)

      Best

      Rachel

    • Marie Dwivkidz profile image
      Author

      Marie Dwivkidz 8 years ago from UK

      You are welcome prasetio30 - enjoy! Peach jam sounds good tdarby - let me know how it goes - maybe there is a new hub in there somewhere?!

    • tdarby profile image

      tdarby 8 years ago

      Sounds delicious! Now if my darn strawberries would get going. Maybe I will substitute peaches? What do you think.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 8 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I like strawberry so much . thanks for share about this fruit. Hmmm...Yummy.

    • Marie Dwivkidz profile image
      Author

      Marie Dwivkidz 8 years ago from UK

      Thanks - mine guzzle bread and jam when they get in from school as an instant pick-me-up. Thanks for reading!

    • R Burow profile image

      R Burow 8 years ago from Florida, United States

      Marie, My kids would love making and eating this jam.

      Thanks

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