Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Strawberry jam, 1832 style

The Cooks Own Book from 1832 is set up a little differently than many cookery books.  It has an alphabetical listing of different dishes and ingredients, with the recipes after each heading.  Thus the  section on Jam, starts with Jam, Apricot, goes trough a variety of fruits ending with Jam, White or Red Currant.  The Jelly listings start with a plain jelly, which is wine based ending with Jelly, Strawberry with everything from Rum Jelly to Calf's Feet jelly in between.  It seemed like a good time to try the strawberry jam recipe since I had some strawberries which needed to be used up.
I'd love to know where all my  250 ml or 1 cup jelly jars go every winter.  I could find only 5 jars and only 1 of the 125 ml jars too!   There should be more of those but nope, they've probably gone off to party with my iPod, which is also currently in hiding.    However, I was pretty sure I had enough for the quantity of berries I had in the fridge and besides, jams need to be made in small amounts as well.

Strawberries an sugar just starting to mix together.
I weighed out my berries and I had 2 pounds of them - well, 900.6 grams.   The recipe calls for equal parts of sugar and fruit, so I weighed out 2 pounds of sugar, which was just under 4 1/2 cups.   When I mixed the two together, the strawberries quickly started become juicy.  I changed up the recipe a little bit, by adding the juice of one lemon.   While the recipe calls for more juice of strawberries, I didn't have any but some of the berries were a bit on the very ripe side and some were imported, rather than Ontario berries.  Those just don't work the same way for me when I use them to make jam, so I don't normally but I didn't want these to go to waste.  Higher acid levels will help the pectin set and help cut the sweetness a bit.
Syrup is starting to become more transparent as sugar dissolves.

Once the sugar started dissolving properly, I turned the heat on under my big jam pot and  kept it on low, stirring constantly, until the sugar completely dissolved.  Then I turned up the heat a bit more in increments, until I was someplace between medium and high heat and my jam was starting to boil.  

 DO NOT STOP STIRRING!   'cause if you do, the jam will burn.  I stirred for about 15 minutes when a candy thermometer said it was at 220° F.   This is supposed to be the temperature at which jelly will set.   I pulled it off the stove, skimmed the foam off the top of it and ladled it into jars, wiped the rims and popped the sealer lids and rings on.

Then I went to put them in the water bath and realized that the canner was still under the kitchen table and it sure wasn't full of hot water, waiting for me.   Luckily that is a mistake that I will only make once a year and there are only a few jars of jam to worry about.

The jam is tasty but it didn't quite set as much as I'd like.   Next time, a bit longer of a boil.   The aim is to get it to 66% sugar content which should be 220° F.   Perhaps my thermometer needs to be recalibrated.   Interestingly, the 1 : 1 ratio of fruit to sugar still seems to be an accepted standard for regular jam making today.

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