While I cook for the new book, while I write recipes and headnotes, while I take pictures perched on a chair and try to remember to save them before erasing the memory card, I keep myself occupied. Among a recipe tested and my sourdough starter refreshed, I roll out puff pastry, I let the bread rise in the oven with the light on, a more interesting show than the average tv production, and I make jam. A lot of jam.
Kneading the bread and making jam are two primitive pleasures which root me to the ground. They clear up my mind. They help me to redefine my priorities and find a quiet corner in my busy day. They are also an ideal soundtrack to write: the jam gently simmering on the stove and the bread singing while cooling down are a natural symphony. When you open the door you are overwhelmed by the fragrant aroma of the just baked bread and the fruity smell of strawberry jam. A much more enjoyable welcome than the hearty smell of an oxtail stew. Salivating, yes, but slightly too persistent.
Fresh bread and strawberry jam are the essence of a reconciling afternoon break. I feel like I am instantly in my beloved England, enjoying a high tea in a comfortable tea house in the green humid countryside. I can feel heavy Wellington boots at my feet, my cheeks reddened by a walk along muddy country roads and the citrus smell of a steaming Earl Grey in front of me. I miss a generous serving of clotted cream but some mascarpone or a creamy ricotta can do the trick.
I chose to keep the ingredient list as short as possibile for this jam, as I have already learnt that easy jams are a crowd pleasing treat. Strawberries, lemon and sugar. Strawberry and lemon as my childhood gelato, the ice cream my mum and aunt would buy me in those hot summer afternoons in San Gimignano. Strawberry on its own would be a tad too sweet, lemon overly acid. On a wafer cone they would mingle together in a swirl of tart fruitiness.
How not to love a jam with the same flavour of your childhood gelato?
- 1 kg of fresh strawberries
- 2 organic lemons
- 300 g of sugar
- Wash the strawberries and remove the stems and leaves. Dice them and gather the strawberries in a bowl. Slice thinly the lemons and add them to the strawberries. Cover the fruit with sugar, stir and marinate for at least 2 hours, until the sugar has melted into a syrup.
- Pour the fruit and the syrup in a thick-bottomed pan and bring to a boil over low heat. Simmer gently for about 45 minutes stirring often. Check if it is ready dropping some jam on a cold plate: if it doesn't slide over when you tilt the plate, it's ready.
- Pour the jam into 3 sterilized jars and close tight. Put the jars in a deep pot, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, then remove from the heat. Let the jars cool completely in the pot. The jam will keep for several months in a cool, dry, dark place.
- If you are a beginner with preserving, be confident and learn the basic with Canning 101 from Simple Bites.
- I always use my mum’s ratio when making a jam: 300 g of sugar for a kilo of fruit. Though, I would love to try honey as sweetener in a preserve. This jam by Simple Bites, Sugar free honey strawberry jam looks great Naturally Ella made it and her photos are truly eye candy. An Organic Wife makes it even without pectin, Strawberry Jam.
- Felicity Cloake is always an enjoyable reading, so do not miss her How to make perfect strawberry jam for The Guardian. Without it the cream tea would be a colourless affair and the Victoria sandwich an ordinary sponge. How do you deploy strawberry jam?