Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sticky situation

After three days of blissful relaxation in Blenheim, it was time to head back to Christchurch. Before we left, we popped into a local hydroponic strawberry farm, where I was able to pick up jam strawberries for the fantastic price of $2 a kilo. I hadn't really been thinking about making strawberry jam (p228), but I couldn't pass up a deal like that!

Unfortunately, when I got home, I found that my old Kelvinator fridge had seriously underperformed while I was away, turning milk lumpy and various other items mouldy in a temperature that was barely cool, and nowhere near cold. Without a decent fridge to keep my already soft strawberries in, and knowing I'd be distracted in the coming days with shopping around for a new one, I decided to get the jam done immediately.

I wasn't perhaps in an excellent jam-making frame of mind, but it seemed the best option at the time. Anyway, the recipe didn't look too difficult: just hull and mash the strawberries, add sugar and boil for five minutes. Then, add tartaric acid and boil a further five minutes before pouring into jars and sealing. I liked that there was no testing for setting point, and that there was only ten minutes boiling time.

Of course, things didn't go quite according to plan. I got out my usual large saucepan, forgetting that I generally only make a half recipe when I do jams. This one was a full recipe as the fruit had been so cheap. Even so, the fruit and sugar only took up just over half the pot, so no problem, right? That is, until it started boiling.

The jam rose to the very lip of the pot and threatened to spill over. I spent a harrowing few minutes trying to keep the liquid in a state that could be called a boil, while also preventing it from boiling over. Tricky, and looking back now, I don't think the jam was cooked anything like enough when the timer went off - I'd just been unable to boil it rapidly enough.

And then there were the jars. I had prepared the strawberries and was about to begin the jam making when it occurred to me to check whether I had enough jars. Naturally, I didn't. Grabbing all the jars I had (including an old Nutella glass) I put them in the oven to sterilise. But it wasn't nearly enough - I actually wound up using some water glasses for the remaining jam!

Added to that was my usual error of not letting the jars cool down enough, so the jam fizzed and bubbled over when I poured it into the jars, making an awful mess that, try as I might, I could not prevent from dribbling down to the floor.

Eventually I had my various sticky jam vessels filled and sealed - except for the final water glass, which was only half-full and not sealed since I had run out of seals anyway. What on earth was I going to do with this part-glass of jam?

Turning to my usual fallback, I contemplated bringing something to work. But what? Scones are good with jam, but they're really best if eaten the day they're made. The same is true for pikelets, but I didn't have time to make any before work, and nothing to cook them on if I wanted to make them there.

Or did I? The one cooking apparatus (apart from a microwave) we have in the office is a sandwich press: a hot, flat surface, perfect for making pikelets (p31)! I sifted together enough dry ingredients for a double pikelet batter, nestled an egg snugly in a small container of sugar, and set all aside with the jam to take to work.

At morning tea time, I heated up the sandwich press and mixed my batter. It was then that I realised that I should have had two eggs for the double recipe, but it was too late by then. I had to make do with what I had, adding a bit of extra milk instead.

I really should have paid more attention to the recipe - it specifically says not to overmix it, but I didn't notice this until I'd beaten the batter quite a lot to remove the lumps. Oh well. The pikelets cooked quite well on the sandwich press, though it wasn't quite as hot as a frypan so took a little longer. They were quite nice while hot, though a little rubbery from the overmixing once they'd cooled down. The missing egg wasn't actually noticeable at all.

The double mix made quite a few pikelets, and at first I didn't think many of them would get eaten. They all disappeared over the course of the day, though, along with most of my half-glass of jam. The jam itself tasted quite good (coming from me, that's high praise, since I don't really like strawberry jam much) but was very runny. It's probably because I didn't boil it enough, but I'm hoping the rest of the jars will set a little better in time.

Looking back, it wasn't a very good idea to do the jam last night. I made quite a mess of it (literally: my kitchen floor is still sticky) and I really don't know quite what I'm going to do with all that runny jam. On the other hand, I now know it's possible to make good pikelets on a sandwich press, which is information worth having, don't you think?


  1. Ha ha now you know why I don't go in for making jam much, believe me it's the old gene thing again!!!
    Runny jam isn't a problem tho just use it like ice cream topping with yoghurt, porridge, anything like that.

  2. Or, make icecream (I know it is there somewhere) and then swirl the jam into it to make Strawberry Ripple Icecream.

  3. Strawberry ripple does sound quite appealing! I might have to think about that!


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