Today was a near-perfect Sunday, with the Sunday gossip, interviews and newspaper reviews on the Marian Finucane show (although it was the excellent Rachael English standing in for Marian) and a lone brunch on the patio - of our home-grown fresh strawberries and cream on pancakes with maple syrup, and delicious double muesli with yogurt and more strawberries and grapes, all washed down with the ubiquitous cuppa tea and a glass of (Super-Valu) summer fruits drink on the side. I finished yesterday's Irish Times as I haven't been to the shops for the Sunday Times yet, and I read a few more chapters of our online Bloggers' Book Club book for this month - Let the Great World Spin by the terrific Irish/US-based Colum McCann.
Basking in glorious sunshine, I felt really at ease and relaxed. Why alone, you may ask? Teen daughter upstairs doing her homework, and youngest son off playing cricket with the Lismore team in Cork, where he'll be joined by his oldest brother who lives there and also plays for Lismore. Middle son is still in Dublin finishing his MA studies, and hubby Jan is off on a mega-cycle of 120km along the Copper Coast to Bunmahon and back. So I haven't been abandoned, just home (almost) alone by choice. I will mooch down to the shop for the paper, and drop by the Farmers' Market for some great samosas from Pie in the Sky, a new foodie stall by Maeve Geoghegan, whose imaginative dips and salsas and lemonades have to be tasted to be believed.
I've picked about four pounds of strawberries from our polytunnel in the past three days, and have made jam from half of them, as there are too many to eat them all with cream, or on pancakes, or with yogurt in the breakfast muesli - as I did today!
This jam recipe is simplicity itself, and I use special Jam Sugar if I have it, or normal white sugar otherwise. Normal sugar works fine but takes a bit longer to set to just beyond runny.
(I hate stiff jam, and it's perfect when it's not drippy or runny but it doesn't have to pass the upside-down jar test - that's when you hold the cooled jam jar upside down it doesn't move!)
- 1 pound/500g of sugar to each pound/500g of strawberries
- 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice per pound/500g of fruit
- Water to cover base of pan
- Hull and rinse the ripe strawberries
- Put in pan with lemon juice and water
- Cover and bring to boil, then simmer until fruit is soft
- Add sugar and stir to dissolve - uncovered
- Bring to boil and reduce heat
- Boil gently for 10-15 mins until setting point reached - when jam wrinkles on a cold plate when tilted
- Skim off scum as it forms
- Pour into warmed glass jars
Handy Tips: Warming the jars in the oven is best, as it sterilises them and ensures they won't break when you pour in the hot jam. Put jars in a cold oven and turn on to a medium heat -150 degrees Centigrade/300 degrees Fahrenheit - for 10 mins.
After you fill the jam jars, seal immediately with metal caps - preferably with the vacuum seal in the lid centre that you will hear pop as the jam cools.
Enjoy the jam with fresh-baked bread and butter, or indulge with scones and cream, or on pancakes with cream. This jam will keep for a year but it's unlikely to last that long as it will be finished by Christmas - if you're anything like me - unless you've made a huge stash.
I know some people make sugar-free jam but I find that this 50:50 mix works fine to make a deliciously sweet jam - the lemon offsets any excessive sweetness - and it preserves it perfectly - they don't call jams preserves for nothing!
The photos - from the top:
- My perfect brunch on the patio
- The view of the garden today
- Lismore Farmers' Market on the Castle Avenue
- Pie in the Sky stall
- Strawberry bed in the polytunnel
- From Strawberry to Jam - various stages