Friday, 25 July 2014

Scottish Summer = Strawberry Jam!

Went to Cairnie Fruit Farm for the first time on Monday, with the brother and his family. I must admit, it was nice to be outdoors and see nature doing what it does best. 
The Farm has chickens, horses and a huge area for the children to run wild and play while parents can either join in or just laze about on the grass. I ended up taking Ella to run about and play on hay bales, climb up the "huge pillow" and go sliding down chutes and slides. She doesn't have very good balance so we like to keep a close eye on her, especially when in an area where there is a high volume of children running around, much faster than her. 
Ella had a blast though and what really surprised me was that although there were loads of children running about, they were very careful around her and even waited patiently for her to climb up the hay bales slowly to get to the chute herself. I could not have been more proud of these kids and of Ella for doing it all by herself! There were times where I just wanted to call her name to reassure her that I was there, to go up there and give her a hand, but she needed to do this all on her own. And that she did. 
To onlookers, it will seem like we make such a big deal about something that every 4 year old would know how to do without trying. Ella unfortunately has delays in her development so seeing her do these things for the 1st time, like climbing a bale of hay, slowly correcting her own balance on the uneven surface and then actually getting in to the chute without someone giving her a hand is something I will never ever forget. That moment of pure joy she had on her face when I met her at the bottom of that chute, will forever stay with me.

Okay, now to wipe up the tears and talk about strawberries! 

At Cairnie Fruit Farm they have Pick You Own: Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Gooseberries, Redcurrants and Black Currants. 
They provide boxes but I'm sure you could take your own (especially with Fife being zero wastage and all) and once you have picked them, you have them weighed, you then pay for them and then take them home with you to enjoy!

We went strawberry picking quite late on in the day and so many of the good ones were already picked by the enthusiasts who were there when the place opened their doors. I was still able to get a good box of them and they were scrumptious! So juicy and sweet. 

There is something about Scottish strawberries that make them taste so much better than the ones imported in.
My pick of raspberries was not as lucky but I still managed about 3/4 of a punnet.

All that cost me only £7.30. 
Whether you live in Scotland or are just visiting; if you have an afternoon spare (given that there is no rain) then why not go pick some berries at a farm and enjoy the fruits of your labour.
If you feel like foraging, you can but just be careful not to pick the wrong ones, and roadside ones are not advisable.

I shared some of the strawberries with my mum, but there was still a kilo left over for me to eat and my fridge still had grapes and mangosteens that needed devouring!



Jamming, preserving, canning, conserving, whatever you want to call it. When done right, it is totally yum! Nothing beats a good jam piece.

I have attempted (and failed) to make strawberry jam twice; 1st time, the jam was not set. 2nd time, jam turned in to candy!
This was about 5 years ago and apart from chilli jam, I have not tried attempting it again but you know what they say, "3rd time lucky". Right?

This time I was more prepared. 
I am a proud owner of a jam funnel and sugar thermometer. Yes, I rely on science and I rely on funnels in order to not spill jam everywhere (when you have shaky hands like me, it's necessary) but I don't care. As long as it helps me achieve what I need to achieve then happy days!

I was always told to make jam by adding strawberries to sugar on a 1:1 ratio. For me this would be exceptionally sweet so decided to see if there were other recipes that called for less sugar.

I decided to try out James Martin's strawberry jam recipe, but without the butter.
What enticed me to this recipe was the use of Jam Sugar and lemon juice. Many recipes use one or the other but I have always been worried that the jam wouldn't set properly. I like my jam set quite well so that it doesn't run down your hands when you eat it on scones or on a piece. Let's face it, no one likes sticky fingers.

The outcome of this was a nicely set jam but a couple of things I might do differently next time:

1. Cut the strawberries in to smaller pieces. I am not a fan of big chunks of strawberries in my jam, especially when eating it with peanut butter. It just spoils the harmony of the sweet and savoury. 
If you have never tried a peanut butter and jam (or jelly to the US readers) sandwich, you are totally missing out!
I grew up with mum teaching me how to make peanut butter and jam sandwiches for my lunch box and it is still my favourite to put on to think I will go make some now...
Peanut Butter Jelly Time! Peanut Butter Jelly Time!....I wonder how many people will actually get this.

2. Reduce the jam sugar and maybe add some pectin. This ended up being slightly too sweet for my taste so hopefully if I use pectin it may still set okay. There will be an update of the recipe if it succeeds.

I have to admit, making this during one the hottest days of Scottish summer was not a wise choice - okay, 21ºC may not seem that hot to those living in the tropics but in Scotland, this is our heat wave! Seriously. No joke.
I was sweating so badly that M thought i had just washed my hair when he came down to the kitchen that morning. 

The smell in the kitchen was intoxicating. I love the smell of cooking jam. Maybe it's because it reminds me of when mum made jam for us every summer and the house would just be filled with this beautiful aroma. I even helped mum stir the jam and watched her as she poured them in to the tall glass jars.
I also remember being slightly disappointed that her jam was never set properly, unlike Nana's (a Scottish lady that had looked after me when I was very young). Now that I'm older, I realised that this was because she never hard boiled her jam properly and there was no jam sugar or lemon juice added to it. I don't blame her though because the jam still tasted damn good!

Special Materials you may find useful:
Wax discs
Sugar thermometer
Jam funnel
Large heavy based pan



1KG Strawberries (hulled and large ones cut in half)
700g Jam Sugar
Juice of 1 lemon


  • The night before: Gently toss the sugar and strawberries together in a large bowl. 

    Let's macerate baby!
  • Cover and leave to macerate at room temperature overnight.
  • Next day, transfer all the contents from the bowl (making sure you scrape out all the sugar and juices ) to a large heavy pan and add the lemon juice.
  • Cook the strawberries on a low heat until all the sugar is dissolved.
  • Once all the sugar is dissolved, turn up the heat.
  • Hard boil until the sugar thermometer reads 105ºC, then turn off the heat. I also did the saucer test right after turning off the heat just to reassure myself that it had set.
  • Skim off any scum that has come to the surface and leave to cool slightly for 15mins - stirring or swirling the pot every so often to avoid a skin forming. This ensures that the strawberries don't all float to the top when you put the jam in the jar.
  • Transfer the jam to hot sterilised jars, place a wax disc on the surface of the jam and seal tightly. 

The Jam can be stored, unopened, in a dark cupboard for up to a year (so make sure you date you jars!) and once opened, store in the fridge.

Some ruby goodness going on in there.
The staff at my work have been my guinea pigs for most new recipes  that I try out and this was no different. 2 of my colleagues, my sister-in-law and brother tried it today and said exactly the same as me about the sweetness and size of strawberry pieces but they loved the flavour of the strawberries and the colour is so vibrant when spread on bread.

My colleagues have decided to take a trip to Cairnie Farm next week to go berry picking now. Love that they are feeling so excited by this and hopefully they will be able to make their own jams too.

Best strawberry ice cream I have ever had. None of that artificial pink rubbish.


  1. We made Cairnie Jam as Xmas presents a couple of years ago. Best jam I've ever tasted and a lovely place!

  2. Yeah! I was really surprised at how much space there is for everyone. Fantastic family day out for sure.


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