Sometimes I wonder how big a portion of our garden I would have to devote to strawberries if we were to feel like we have enough. Enough to eat as many as we want, enough to make tarts and smoothies and preserves. Would half the garden be enough? I doubt that.
As it is, just one of our beds is planted with strawberries and the few strawberries we pick are delicious but nowhere near what we would consider enough.
So when I wanted to make jam, we went to a small pick-your-own farm in the neighborhood and picked just about all the ripe strawberries there were -4,5 kg (9 pounds). I used 2 kilos to make jam and the rest was eaten within two days. And even then nobody felt like they’ve eaten too many strawberries.
This jam was inspired by an elderly gentleman who had a stand at our neighborhood plant swap with his home made preserve. He proudly informed me that his preserves won a competition organized by the Country Living magazine (he was the only male participant) which I had no trouble believing. He sold several preserves with edible flowers in them, but strawberry elderflower turned out to be our favorite. Unfortunately, I lost his phone number and the emailadres he gave me did not work so I could not ask for his recipe and it might have been a trade secret anyway.
So I made up my own recipe. There are several things I consider important in a strawberry jam: there must be some distinct pieces of strawberries but not so large as to make it difficult to use on bread and it should not be too sweet because then you can’t really taste the berries. Strawberries contain very little pectin, therefore lemon juice is added – it also improves the flavor. Elderflowers are often combined with gooseberries but the chances are bigger that their flowering season will coincide with the strawberry season. The blossom looks pretty in the jar, but that’s not why it’s there – it’s for the beautiful perfume.
Clean jars are the single most important thing when making preserves. I wash mine with hot soda water, then pour boiling water in each jar and let stand for a couple of minutes. I let the jars dry upside down on a clean kitchen towel.
Strawberry elderflower jam
This is a soft set jam.
Makes about 4 jars.
1 kg strawberries
500 g sugar
juice of 1 lemon
3 elderdlower heads, fully open but not browning yet
Wash and hull the strawberries and cut them in pieces not too small. Put them in a large heavy-bottomed pan, add sugar and lemon juice, stir and leave to marinate for a while ( I let them stand while I clean the jars – see above).
Gently pull the blossoms from the elderflower heads, being careful to leave the stalks behind. Add blossom to strawberries and bring to boil. Simmer for about half an hour, until the jam coats the back of a spoon. Remove any scum that has formed. Pour immediately into clean jars. Turn the jars upside down for ten minutes. Once opened keep in the fridge and use within a week. The jam should keep for a year but the bright color might start to fade earlier.