This week I had an unexpected windfall. I got a text after work from Imogen (assistant editor at Permaculture) saying that her local Co-op were about to throw out loads of cartons of strawberries – too many for her jam making activities – and she couldn't bear it. Would I like some? She could just about manage 7.5kg on the bus the next day. 7.5kg of English strawberries for £5.40. Riches!
At this time of year, there are so many seasonal gluts. It is the time of abundance – opportunities to preserve the summer glut for later in the winter when there is no fruit on the trees. It's a great way of gathering Christmas presents too. Keep an eye out on your travels for wild plum trees, fruit near its sell by date in the supermarket and bargains on the market stall. (Freegans also check the supermarket waste bins as well and liberate some of the millions of tonnes of perfectly good thrown-away food.)
One project I really like is FareShare, a charity dedicated to reducing food poverty in the UK (with one of the three great permaculture ethics as its name!) It is offering supermarkets, manufacturers and sandwich chains an alternative to using landfill. FareShare currently takes unsold food to provide meals for about 12,000 homeless and low-income people every day. And now it wants to provide a much wider service, charging a fee to get rid of much larger quantities. My daughter, Gail, observed that the scheme could be extended to the many students who are increasingly in debt and can't afford to eat vegetables and other healthy foods.
Anyway, back to my supermarket glut.
When the starwberries arrived I divided them into lots. 4kg for jam, 2 kg to freeze for strawberry wine that I will make later on (recipe to follow on a later blog), 400g for Granny and 400g to eat and the remaining to replace any over-ripe fruit in the jam allocation.
I made 4kg in one batch but here is the recipe halved in case you have less fruit:
- 2kg of whole strawberries
- the juice of 3 lemons
- 2kg of jam sugar (or normal sugar plus added pectin)
- knob of butter
1. Wash, drain, de-stalk the fruit and cut in half. Put in a large non-metallic bowl or bowls (plastic or glass is fine). Add sugar as you go along and the lemon juice, gently mix. Cover with a upturned bowl and leave overnight. (This helps keep the strawberries whole.
2. Put the fruit and juice into a preserving pan or a 4.5 litre/8 pint saucepan. Heat gently, stirring, to dissolve the sugar.
3. Bring to the boil for 4 minutes. Add a knob of butter to prevent scum forming. Take off the heat to test for setting point. Spoon a little jam onto the cold saucer (you can put it in the freezer). After a couple of minutes gently pull your finger through the jam and if the surface wrinkles it's ready. If not, return to the boil for 2 minutes, then re-test. Or use a food thermometer (useful for yogurt and wine making),
4. Take off the heat and cool for 10-15 minutes to stop fruit rising to surface when you pot.
5. Stir gently to distribute the fruit, then pour into warm sterilised jars. Put in a cool, dark store or cupboard.
2kg makes about 9lbs (454g) pots of jam. Heavenly!
Coming soon: recipes for strawberry wine and golden gage (plum) wine plus a guest blog from the Moneyless Man.