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I’ve been meaning to whip up my own home-made jam for the longest time, after seeing how Jamie Oliver did it on his show. And then I had the brightest idea: instead of buying gifts for our friends this Christmas, why don’t we make them something?

And thus, Project Christmas Jamming was born.

I started in November, testing with a small batch first. We ate some and gave some to our family, who promptly gave us positive reviews. Mr Thick loved it too, and we finished our little jar pretty quickly.

Because I started canning the jam so early in the game, I decided that sterilizing and vacuum sealing the jars were necessary for the jam to last, especially in our humid weather. Basically, it involves dunking the jars and lids in boiling water for 10 minutes and sticking them into a warm oven as you prepare the jam. Once you have poured the finished jam into the jars, leaving a 0.5-inch gap at the top, put them back into rapidly boiling water for 10 minutes. Let cool overnight – you’ll find that the centre of the lid should be slightly dented.

The actual process is NOT difficult but the preparation work can be tiring. I was standing at the sink hulling strawberries for what felt like forever. Standing over the hot stove stirring and stirring was not fun at all – not when you multiply it by three or four Sundays.

Turthfully, it wasn’t the most cost-efficient gift, what with buying the strawberries, sugar and jars. And it truly is a labour of love because it involves hours of standing on your feet. I started out not realising how much I had bitten off. But then, when I saw the finished product at the end of it all, the quiet satisfaction made all the hard work worth it. And that was what defined this Christmas for me – putting in effort and love into something useful, instead of buying meaningless gifts.

What you need:
(Makes about five 0.15l jars)

  • 1kg strawberries, hulled
  • 250g blueberries, washed
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

Directions

Fire up the oven and place two small plates into the freezer. Put the sterilized jars into the oven over a clean tea towel, face down.

Put on an apron if you don’t want strange pink splotches on your clothes.

Mash up the strawberries and blueberries. (The first time round, I did it by hand but subsequently dumped the berries into a blender.) Be careful not to over-mash it though, you want some texture. This should give you about 4 cups of berries.

Pour the mashed up berries, sugar and lemon juice into a sturdy and deep pot over a gentle fire. You need a pretty big pot because everything will bubble up and trust me, strawberry jam on your stove is a bitch to clean up. (I used my biggest WMF pot.) Stir until the sugar dissolves completely.

Push the flames up to medium-high and stir. (I didn’t dare to put it on high because I was afraid it would bubble out of my pot!) Stir. Stir somemore. Keep stirring! You don’t want your jam to burn at this moment. Stir for about 20 minutes. Once the mixture appears thickened like a gel, turn off the heat.

Put a small dollop onto one of the plates that was in the freezer and return it to the freezer. After a few minutes, take it out and push it gently with your finger. It should appear wrinkly. If it doesn’t, put the jam back onto the fire and cook it for a few minutes more and then try the gelling test again.

Once it’s done, ladle into your warm jars, close the lid and proceed with water bath for canning.

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You can’t really skim on the sugar because it acts as a preservative. The lemon juice adds a nice tangy taste to the jam and does double duty as pectin, which holds the jam together. I tried using powdered pectin but I couldn’t seem to get it right and just abandoned it altogether.

We stored the jars in the fridge until it was Christmas time and then took them out to be packaged. This time round, husband got his hands dirty and helped to prettify them.

I may be biased but I thought they were pretty dang tasty and cute. Heh.

Now, what can I make for next Christmas?

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