Thursday 27 June 2013

Strawberry Jam (with a touch of lime)

I'm sorry my posts have been erratic in the past few weeks. As well as going to the Lakes, I turned 24, hosted a birthday party weekend and went on a little trip to Cardiff.

More importantly, we lost our dog, Silver. She was just 16 - born on our sofa and midwifed by mum. I cradled her in my little arms when she given to me for my 8th birthday the next day. I can't clearly remember life before she was born. She was part of our tiny family and the last of our line of lurchers. We had to put her down last Tuesday.

I don't think I'll ever forget looking into her eyes as the light left them, slowly then all at once. I don't think I'll forget how peaceful she looked once the tension had left her face or how it felt to walk the few streets back to my house clutching her collar and lead in my hands, tears freely dripping down and steadily darkening my dress, completely unaware of anyone around me except mum beside me and Arthur walking quietly in the small gap between us, his warm fur brushing up against each of our legs in turn.

I don't think I'll forget playing scrabble the next day and unwittingly arranging my letters to GONE and being shocked by the force of the sob that burst out of my chest and then stubbornly not wanting to explain because I didn't want to let mum know that I had a G, O, N and E.

In my head, 24 has always felt like the first truly adult age. I've been nervous of the sharp line I'd drawn in my mind for months. Then, with such a big part of my childhood over, it feels like it has been highlighted and underlined. It's overwhelming, but in the end I know it will be a positive - a push to move on, to change things I want to and leave the parts of the past I'd like to leave behind tucked on the other side. I have a good feeling about 24.

A few days afterwards we managed to go to a pick your own farm in Oxford (Medley Manor Farm, in Binsey, just outside Oxford city centre) to find some strawberries, asparagus and new potatoes. We'd decided that making some soup and jam would be a therapeutic way to spend the day. There's something so comforting about preserving.

The next day, I took a jar down to Cardiff for a close friend's engagement party to thank her lovely family for having me to stay (I made some Champagne Truffles as an engagement present too). I kept thinking about the jam over the weekend, which is always a good sign that I need to share.

I cycled out to the farm yesterday to pick three huge punnets so I could make another two batches of jam.

Though common wisdom is to use slightly underripe fruit for jam, I decided to use fully ripe fruit. The usual reason is that ripe fruit contains less pectin - but as strawberries are already very low in pectin and generally need to have it added anyway, I decided to go for the wonderful flavour of the ripe strawberries. I'd already reduced the sugar so the added sweetness didn't cause too many problems and as I was making the jam immediately I wasn't worried about it going over.

I found the idea of adding some or all of the acid (i.e. citrus juices) at the end to give the jam a fresh fruitiness in Diana Henry's beautiful book Salt Sugar Smoke. I think it works really well with the strawberries, especially when there is some lime along with the lemons.

The set of this jam is soft and it has some wonderful chunky bits of preserved strawberry. I like a soft set - it mingles and seeps into the toast or crumpet. The first time I made it I was worried it was too soft, but I've really grown to love it as it is (which is a good thing, as after three batches I now have 15 or so jars left...)

My favourite ways to eat it so far are with the obvious things: warm croissants, toast, crumpets and so on. I've also become rather partial to a few spoons over some vanilla ice cream. I really want to try it in a swiss roll, too.


Finally, as you may have heard, Google Reader is shutting down on the first of July, next Monday. I'm sad to see GR go, it's been a central part of blogging for me since I started. For those of you who do follow Poires on there, I wanted to quickly point out a few options. Personally, I've moved to bloglovin, which I quite like so far - it's really easy to import your subscriptions. You can find Poires on bloglovin here. I've also heard that Old Reader is pretty similar to GR if you don't want too much of a change and Feedly also seems popular. You can also sign up to get posts by email or follow along on Facebook, Twitter, G+ or Pinterest.

Strawberry Jam (with a touch of lime)
(adapted from the classic 1kg/1kg ratio with some advice from Diana Henry's Salt Sugar Smoke)

1kg ripe strawberries
750g granulated jam sugar with added pectin*
juice of 2 lemons
1/2 tsp of butter
juice of 1 limes

Collect your equipment before you start. You'll need a big saucepan or jam pan, about 5-8 jam jars depending on size, matching lids, a ladle (and preferably a jam funnel, which makes life so much easier), a potato masher or just a heatproof spatula, wax discs cut to size if you want to use them and a thermometer (if you feel more comfortable with one). Place a saucer in the freezer to test the set with. Sterilise your jars and lids - I put mine through a dishwasher cycle just before I start. Pop the jars onto a tray to make them easier to move and place them in the oven, set at 100C/210F.

Prepare the strawberries by hulling them and cutting them into 3 or 4 for large fruits and 2 for smaller. Put into the big pan and add the juice of one lemon. Add the sugar to the strawberries and stir in. Juice the other lemon and the lime and put by the stove. Place the pan over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Use a potato masher or a spatula to squish some of the strawberries - not too much, but just to give some varying texture.

When the sugar has dissolved, add the little bit of butter to help reduce the foaming then turn the heat right up. It will start to bubble, boil, then foam up (see a photo of the change here). Once it's really boiling and gets up to 100C/212F or so, boil for 2-3 minutes or until it hits 104C/219F. Turn the heat down and test the set of the jam by spooning a little onto the frozen saucer and popping it back in to chill. Take out a couple of minutes later and push the jam with your finger - it should wrinkle in front of your finger and not fluidly run back into the line you created with your finger. If you're happy, add the citrus juice and stir in. If not, turn the heat back up and boil for another minute or two, checking regularly. The jam should thicken and be glossy and dark red when it's ready.

Leave the jam to cool for 15 minutes so that the strawberry pieces will stay suspended in the jam when you jar it. Skim off any persistent bits of foam with a spoon. Get the jars out of the oven two or three minutes before the timer goes - ideally, they'll be about 85C/185F when you use them. Ladle the jam into the jars, coming up to the bottom of the rim. Add a wax disc and seal the lids tightly, covering your hands with a towel to protect them. Leave to cool then add labels - I write mine on brown paper then stick them on the lids with double sided tape.

(Makes about 1.5kg of jam - I had 6 full 8oz/227g jars with a bit left for immediate use)

* Though I prefer the flavour of the batches with jam sugar, you can also use 125ml of liquid pectin with regular sugar instead. Add it off the heat with the lime juice after two minutes of boiling and check the set after a few minutes. I had to reboil mine for a few minutes afterwards to get a set.

Three more posts with strawberries:
2011: Strawberry Cream Layer Cake
2010: Pink Peppercorn Strawberry Ice Cream
2010: Strawberry Meringue Cake


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about your dog, I've never had a dog myself but can only imagine how it must feel to lose something that has been part of your life for as long as you can remember. 24 is awesome, enjoy it love. 30 was the one that shocked me ;-) xx

  2. This section about our dog dying and our emotions is so beautifully written.

    The jam is amazing - the lime makes it so special.

  3. so so sorry for your dog, Emma( i simply don`t know what to say that can make you feel better :((( Silver will always be there with you in your heart and not just as a memory, but a someone who you always loved and will continue loving))))))) Silver`s with you :)

  4. A very moving and beautifully written post - I think Silver would have approved.

    Great idea about making preserves - have you ever tried whole gooseberry jam? It's made of unripe gooseberries, they are kept whole and steeped in thick syrup - heavenly. You've inspired me to go to a pick-your-own farm, and I can't wait for the weekend now and some serious fruit and veg picking.Happy 24th - hope you celebrated in style and cooked something nice for your guests!

  5. my goal this summer is to make strawberry jam, i will definitely base it off your recipe!
    i am so sorry about your loss... sending lots of love and blessings your way

  6. So so sorry about Silver, Emma. I lost my German Shephard when I was 6, and on my birthday. It's never the same but I know he's in a better place :)

    Love this strawberry jam with lime. Total yum!

  7. Really beautiful piece, Emma. It feels as if it's about many things - the start of your 'proper' adult life and a meditation on loss and how food comforts, the salve of sweet things, and how important a pet can be: a friend, an extension of ourselves and how we mark time. Thank you for sharing this. Sophie

  8. Warm Vanilla Sugar27 June 2013 at 21:18

    Homemade jam is the way to go for sure! This sounds awesome!

  9. Fine Dining at Home28 June 2013 at 08:52

    Oh Emma, I think if I had a pot of that jam in front of me I would soon run out of crumpets to put it on! Delicious.

  10. Will you adopt me? Please.

  11. Emma, I am so sorry to hear that your dog has passed away. I remember when my childhood dog, a Bernese Mountain Dog called Samson, passed away. They are so much part of your family that there really is a part missing when they are gone. But what will stay are the beautiful memories that you made with your dog and no one can take those away. (Oh and surely there are some photographs of you and your dog in which you are sporting ugly 90s and early 00s clothing that will eventually put a smile on your face... or is that just me?)

    I have been cooking up lots of strawberry jam as well, my current favourite is strawberry and vanilla, but I love the idea of adding lime, so I will try that on my next batch!

  12. I love soft set low sugar jam like this - and the fact that it needs eating quicker than more sugar-packed varieties isn't normally a problem! Have been drawing lots of inspiration from Diana Henry on preserves too. Great idea with the lime. I am trying to pick the strawberries in our garden before the slugs get them at the moment and am hoping I'll have enough of a glut to try this lovely jam.

  13. Aw Emma, so sad about your gorgeous dog (that puppy photo is too too sweet!) - hope your Mum is ok too.

    Enjoy your 20s - I'm 30 in a couple of years and have absolutely loved every second this decade so far, it just gets better and better!

  14. Your jam is wonderful, the lime is a great addition. I am so very sorry that you lost your beloved pet, I know all too well what you are going through and reading your beautifully written post makes me cry. Both of my dogs are seniors and I know the day is coming, hopefully not soon. Your photo's are beautiful and you will always have cherished memories. So sorry for your loss.

  15. So very sorry to hear of your loss, childhood and your childhood companion nearly the same time... that's quite the one-two punch. My heart goes out to you. Your post is obviously heartfelt and beautifully written; hopefully that means you have begun the processing that will lead to healing, that will lead to joyous memories without pain.

    Thank you for the reference to the cookbook Salt Sugar Smoke. I plan to order it. I am in the USA so a link to Amazon USA would allow me to benefit you if you're in their affiliate program for the USA too. Please feel free to email me a link. Thanks again for this beautiful post.

  16. poiresauchocolat28 June 2013 at 17:24

    Thank you for your kind words, Emma, much appreciated. I am looking forward to 24, it's a great number and I've got some exciting things on the horizon. xx

  17. poiresauchocolat28 June 2013 at 17:25

    Thank you Sasha, what a sweet comment. It's started feeling better now - I guess I'm getting used to it, and I know it was the right thing to do.

  18. poiresauchocolat28 June 2013 at 17:27

    Thank you Anna. I haven't tried whole gooseberry jam, that sounds really interesting. I'm feeling very inspired by preserves - jams, jellies, cordials and so on - at the moment. I hope you have fun at the pick your own. & I did cook a lot - a big picnic lunch, a dinner and a brunch. Was a bit much, to be honest - I think another time I'll do one meal out!

  19. poiresauchocolat28 June 2013 at 17:28

    I hope you make your strawberry jam, it's such a lovely feeling to line the jars up afterwards. Thank you for the sweet words, it means a lot.

  20. poiresauchocolat28 June 2013 at 17:29

    How sad, I'm sorry to hear that. I'm not quite sure what I believe about it but I like the idea of her running around with the rest of her/our family now. Glad you like the jam.

  21. poiresauchocolat28 June 2013 at 17:31

    Thank you Sophie, I'm really touched by your comment. Life is so entangled in that way.

  22. poiresauchocolat28 June 2013 at 17:31

    Definitely, I love homemade jams. Glad you like it.

  23. poiresauchocolat28 June 2013 at 17:31

    Hehe! I have now run out of crumpets.

  24. poiresauchocolat28 June 2013 at 17:32

    Heh! I'm not quite sure what I'm meant to say to that!

  25. poiresauchocolat28 June 2013 at 17:35

    I'm sorry to hear about Samson. It's funny, it's not like I've lived with her full time for a few years now, but I still find it odd that she's not around. I'm sure I have some good fashion statements around somewhere!

    Strawberry and vanilla sounds great, I nearly tried that on my first batch. I definitely want to try the apricot and vanilla in Salt Sugar Smoke.

  26. poiresauchocolat28 June 2013 at 17:36

    They're so delicious, aren't they. I don't know how long this will keep as I didn't make any last year but I'm hopeful it'll do pretty well. It's a great book, isn't it. I hope you manage to get all your strawberries before they're eaten!

  27. poiresauchocolat28 June 2013 at 17:37

    Thank you Kate - and thanks again for being so understanding about dinner last week. I am enjoying my twenties - they're certainly better than teens so far! Hope to see you soon xx

  28. poiresauchocolat28 June 2013 at 17:39

    Thank you Suzanne, I'm so glad you like it. It's such a tough time when they're getting old - we've been waiting for the day when it was all too much for months and it's so sad and exhausting. I hope they both your dogs keep their health for as long as possible.

  29. poiresauchocolat28 June 2013 at 17:42

    Thank you Christina. I think I'm doing well now - it was good to have a few days when we didn't have anything we had to do, so we could process and cry and not bottle it all up.

    I don't have any affiliations so no need for a special link but it's here on .com anyway.

  30. poiresauchocolat28 June 2013 at 17:43

    Thanks ma.

  31. i think, he`s just dreaming of having a real cook in the house :D

  32. I'm so sorry about your dog. Truly heartbreaking. Hope you still managed to enjoy your birthday - it's alway good to feel optimistic about the coming year! I love going to pick-your-own farms, last year we went and picked loads of plums, which I made jam with. This year it might have to be strawberries:)

  33. Apricot and vanilla sounds like a great combination! I think I really need to get my hands on this book (yet another one on my wish list...) and some apricots.
    By the way after finally finding golden syrup here: the brownies were absolutely amazing! I brought them and a Toscakaka to a friends party and all guests thought I was some sort of dessert wizard!

  34. ninegrandstudent29 June 2013 at 21:19

    Sitting here crying - sorry to hear about your dog. It brought a lot of memories back about losing my childhood dogs at the age of 13 (three within six months), and 16. The love a dog can give a child is second to none, and I will always aim to have a dog in my future households.

  35. So sorry to hear about your pup. Looked like a sweetie. Best of wishes to you in your 24th year. -R

  36. Obsessive Compulsive Baking Di30 June 2013 at 21:20

    We had to put down our eldest Labrador - Meg - a few weeks ago :( She was only 14. It all happened very quickly and I never got a chance to say goodbye because I was at university. She went from completely healthy, to completely incapable of anything (walking/moving/standing/sitting/eating/drinking/seeing) in the space of three days. They think a brain tumor took over or she had a stroke. Very sad :( I sobbed and sobbed for hours, my friends didn't know what to do with me!

    We still have our two spaniels, but it just isn't the same without her. Its funny how dogs form such an essential part of our families, become so special to us. I'm really sorry about your loss :( at least she is no longer suffering though and you know you did the right thing.

    Leah xxx

  37. Ohh, Sasha, believe me, I am pretty good cook!! I just like people with style! Look at her labels.. Emma is amazing!!

  38. I'm so sorry about Silver, she looks like such a wonderful dog. I hope you and your mum are doing okay xx

  39. I'm sorry to hear about your dog

  40. Oh, Emma-- I'm so sorry to hear about Silver. **HUGS**

    On a happier note, though, happy belated birthday! Welcome to the first year of your mid-20s :P (speaking from someone who just entered the first year of my *late* 20s. Ugh!) But I totally don't count adulthood as starting until 30.... or maybe 40!

  41. July 2013 at 05:54

    i am so sorry to hear about your puppy (dogs are always puppies to me, even when they are very very old). my parents are looking after a couple of old beagles at the moment, and one had to be put down, and even though i'd only met her two or three times and she wasn't our dog, i was very upset (we all were). cried buckets for this sweet old thing who had touched our lives.

    not a very pleasant milestone in adult life, so my thoughts are with you.
    beautiful pictures of jam making in progress. i can taste it from here!

  42. Paula @ Vintage Kitchen4 July 2013 at 13:28

    After a loss like that you need some therapeutic chores Emma. I know Silver had a great life and that must be your comfort. Dogs become friends and it´s like loosing one.
    On another note, this jam rocks, with the touch of lime, a neat idea!

  43. poiresauchocolat4 July 2013 at 21:33

    I really like the book so far. I'm going to try my hand at the apricot when I'm in Switzerland later in the summer - they grow a lot of them in the valley.

    That's awesome! I love the concept of a dessert wizard.

  44. poiresauchocolat4 July 2013 at 23:46

    I did have a lovely birthday - thank you. Plums sound like a great idea - my grandparents always used to have loads of plums when I was little.

  45. poiresauchocolat4 July 2013 at 23:47

    Oh no, I'm so sorry I made you cry! I hope you can think of all the happy memories as well as losing them - as you say, they really do love you.

  46. poiresauchocolat4 July 2013 at 23:47

    Thank you Rachel.

  47. poiresauchocolat4 July 2013 at 23:48

    Oh no, I'm so sorry to hear that Leah - it sounds awful. I hope you're feeling a bit better now too.

  48. poiresauchocolat4 July 2013 at 23:49

    Thank you Kathryn - and thanks again for being so lovely about dinner. Hope to see you soon xx

  49. poiresauchocolat4 July 2013 at 23:49

    Thank you Jenny.

  50. poiresauchocolat4 July 2013 at 23:50

    Hehe well I guess I'm quite happy with the idea of being an adult! As long as it's still fun. But happy birthday to you too!

  51. poiresauchocolat4 July 2013 at 23:52

    I still thought of her as a puppy, too - she was the baby of the family for so many years (we also had her mum, aunt and brother and she was the runt of the litter). How sweet that your parents are looking after the beagles - I'm sorry to hear that one has had to be put down. It's always hard.

  52. poiresauchocolat4 July 2013 at 23:53

    Thanks Paula - it's been tough but we're all feeling a bit more normal now. Making jam really helped - I'm glad you like it.

  53. Wonderful post


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