I have lost count of the amount of marmalade I have made over the past three months, so just for a change I decided to make some strawberry jam today! Many of my marmalade customers have been asking for some different fruity jam, but I have been waiting for the strawberries to drop in price before buying any for jam. They come onto the market straight after Christmas, at quite a high price then, but they have been getting much more reasonable and we have enjoyed some most weeks. But yesterday I needed to call at the Lidl store in Vera to buy sugar for marmalade (I have been given another small bag of bitter oranges which I had intended to use today as they don't keep so well now they are ripe). Sugar is cheaper there than anywhere else, and while I was there, what should I see on their fruit and vegetable aisle but boxes of strawberries (2kg) for 3.69€. I have never bought them for less than 4€ so I thought it was too good an opportunity to miss, and I bought two boxes of them. Today I went back there with Chris to buy a small cupboard I had seen , which I knew I wouldn't be able to handle on my own, and there were the strawberries again, and today they were down to 2.99€. So yes, I bought two more boxes. Of course they have an even shorter life than the oranges so this afternoon I set to with my crate of sugar, a few lemons donated by a friend, the four bottles of Certo that Ben brought over for me back in December, and my 8kg of strawberries.
Here is the first box I uncovered. Don't they look gorgeous? I am sure you are thinking, as I did, that they look too good to use for jam, but that is just how strawberries are out here. You don't get smaller ones, or even scruffier ones as a rule. They keep going like this until the end of their season, which will be quite soon now, and then one week there will be none at the markets, and we will be getting the first peaches and nectarines and apricots instead. Of course I kept back some for us to enjoy, and one or two ended up in my mouth instead of the pot, but most of them went where they were supposed to. I had to do two batches of 4kg as that is the most my preserving pan can hold. I like to crush my fruit so the jam has nice juicy pieces of fruit in it, but not whole strawberries. Chris did a sterling job on the first set with an old potato masher that I keep especially for the strawberries. But he wasn't around for the second batch so I cut half the fruit into small pieces and used my Bamix (hand-held processor) to chop up the rest. Half way through the cooking of them I decided there were still too many big lumps of fruit and I decided to use the Bamix directly in the preserving pan. The result-- bright pink and red dots over the door, the walls, the fridge and the floor, not to mention me! Not such a good idea, but fortunately they were all smooth surfaces so they were fairly easy to clean up, and I had actually put my pinny on, so my dress was unharmed. And several hours later I had 48 jars of strawberry jam, all sealed and labelled, cooling on the table, so that should keep my customers happy for a while. I don't intend to make any more, but I must do another batch of marmalade with those oranges and maybe one more lot of three fruits marmalade as I still have a few grapefruit and fairly sour, sweet oranges to use up. I have almost exhausted my store of jars. Friends are very good at returning them when they have finished their jam, and giving me lots of others as well. I thought I still had plenty but today has made quite a hole in them, so I will have to hope I get a few more back soon.
My next post was going to be about some of the lovely places we went to while Jonathan and Ella were here, but I decided to go with the jam today. Hopefully I will back tomorrow or Sunday with the rest.