Friday, 26 June 2009

Strawberry Day

On this week's River Cottage, Hugh and his mates were preparing for a Strawberry Day - a day to celebrate the delights of the humble strawberry. Now, I'm used to Hugh doing strange things with food (and I shan't be rushing off to try strawberries and peanut butter) but I have never seen anyone make strawberry jam in such a strange way as his friend Pam the Jam. Firstly she used a potato masher to break up the strawberries. Strawberries are a delicate fruit and do not need attacking with a metal implement, and strawberry jam with whole strawberries in is surely a better thing. Then she cooked the strawberries for a briefest of moments - so brief in fact that she then had to add pectin to the jam in order to get it to set. I can only guess that she likes her jam to have the taste of fresh strawberries but she seems to have somehow learnt to make jam without understanding how it should work. Treat strawberries gently and they will release enough pectin to set the jam and still have a yummy summery flavour.

Well, today I had my own personal strawberry day - not a public event but a day processing strawberries into lovely preserves. I started with my version of strawberry jam and later, when the girls came home from school, we made strawberry and marshmallow ice-cream, and finally, following the success of my raspberry cordial, I made strawberry cordial. I'm looking forward to experimenting with the cordial but I have already tried it with milk to make strawberry milkshake and that proved tasty. It was a good way to spend a dull, thundery day.

Strawberry Jam

Makes 3-4 jars
3 lb (1350g) strawberries
2 lb 10 oz (1200g) sugar
2 large lemons providing about 3½ fl oz (100 ml) of juice

NB: Every pound of strawberries requires 14 oz (400g) sugar and 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of lemon juice.

For this recipe any strawberries, whether whole, damaged, squashed, fresh or frozen can be used. Pick the strawberries over, removing any green stalks but don’t bother to chop them up. Place the strawberries in the preserving pan with the lemon juice and heat very gently, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until they begin to break up. Simmer for 20 minutes until the fruit is soft. In the meantime, weigh out the sugar and preheat an oven to 100 °C, 200 °F; gas mark ¼. Place the sugar in an ovenproof dish and warm in the oven. Once the fruit is soft, add the sugar to the pan and stir in, over a low heat until all the sugar is completely dissolved. Boil vigorously until the setting point is reached. Pour into warmed jars and seal immediately.

Strawberry & Marshmallow Ice-cream

1½ lb (700 g) strawberries
5 oz (140 g) icing sugar
1½ tsp lemon juice
8 oz (225 g) mini marshmallows
7½ fl oz (210 ml) milk
½ pint (300 ml) double cream

Puree the strawberries so that you are left with a seedless liquid. Add the sugar and lemon juice and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Put half the marshmallows and the milk into a suitable bowl and heat in the microwave for 2 minutes to melt them. Stir this mixture, add the cream and whisk lightly so that it thickens slightly. Combine with the strawberry puree, mixing until the mixture is evenly pink. Add the remaining marshmallows, pour into suitable containers and place in the freezer for 3 hours. Remove from the freezer and beat the ice cream to introduce air, to break any ice crystals and to distribute the marshmallows throughout the ice cream.

Strawberry Cordial

1 lb 8 oz (680g) strawberries
15 fl oz (425ml) apple juice
12 oz (275g) granulated sugar

Place the strawberries in a blender and blend until smooth then press the liquid through a sieve to remove the seeds. Put the strawberry puree, juice and sugar in a large pan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the boil and pour into warmed bottles and seal. Refrigerate once cooled. Shake well before using and dilute to taste.

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