The plum jam I made earlier this year was a huge hit, so since strawberries are plentiful, relatively cheap and good-tasting at this time of year, I thought I’d have a go at strawberry jam. Fainjin was home with me today for some one-on-one time, and he had great fun helping.
To make strawberry jam, you need:
jars and lids
a 4-year-old helper wearing an apron
a smoke alarm
First, sterilise the jars. While they’re bubbling in the pot, wash and hull the strawberries, chopping them roughly into a large bowl.
Pass the strawberries to your helper, and give him a masher. Sound effects are optional, but Fainjin found chanting “Moosh moosh moosh” to be helpful.
Keep mooshing until the berries are moderately-well crushed (your helper might need a hand, depending on how squishy the strawberries are to start with).
Note the lovely Moomin apron, appropriated from his little sister’s dress-up box.
Next, measure the crushed berries. We had 8 cups! That meant we needed half a cup of lemon juice. Fainjin was over the moon to have a reason to pick the lemons (he often brings me some just for fun).
Now, because we had eight cups of berries, we needed eight cups of sugar. Stop at this point and discuss with the four-year-old: we need eight cups of sugar, and there are two measures in each cup. So how many measures of sugar do we need? (Lots of prompting and counting on fingers, and reminders that eighteen is not the number after fifteen might be required). Measure out the sugar, with your helper counting the measures out loud.
Stir over a low heat, until the sugar is dissolved. Then turn the heat up and bring to a rolling boil. Allow your helper to stir very carefully.
Notice that the jam bubbles up quite high, quite quickly. Start to worry that it might boil over. Move the helper out of the way.
I think you know what happens next. Teach the four-year-old a few new words, and breathe in the delicious aroma of burnt sugar. Quickly turn off the gas! (Ooops, not quickly enough). If you’re unlucky, or slow, the smoke alarm will let your neighbours know you’re cooking.
Decant a portion of the jam into another large pot, and bring to the boil. Clean the sides and bottom of the first pot, clean the stovetop, and bring the first pot back to the boil. Don’t be disappointed if your helper decides that making a Lego airplane to take us all to Australia is more important than helping make jam right now.
Boil for 10 minutes (or more for the larger pot), until jam sets on a cold plate. Then pour into jars, seal, and so on.
When the pot has cooled, scrape a teaspoon along one side and give your helper a taste of the fruit of his labours. Your reward is his huge grin and judgement: “It’s deeeeelicious!”
Oh, and several jars of jam, and a caramel-scented kitchen, and a huge pile of sticky dishes.
© UpsideBackwards 2011.