Some of you may already be aware from my previous posts that I have been baking in an attempt to perfect cakes and recipes for entry into the local show. Well, the show has been and gone and I can tell you that even with all my practice, the day before was still a chaotic blur day of baking, making mistakes and frantically trying to get everything done on time for the Saturday. Entries had to be at the show and exhibited before 9am, so really Friday was the day to get it all done. There could be no last minute baking or amendments on the Saturday morning, hence why I had dutifully practised my recipes. But to be honest, no matter how much practice you put in, things can inevitably go wrong, as I found out.
1 jar of Strawberry Jam class
I haven’t made jam very often, but I inherited my Nannies Jam pans and wanted to continue her tradition of jam making. I made the Jam a couple of days before, but to be honest this could have made weeks before.
There’s not much to strawberry jam, but here’s the recipe anyway……
1kg of British Strawberries, now I was told to not use overly ripe strawberries however I saw punnets reduced to £1.30 each in the local supermarket due to them reaching there use by date and thought, sod it I’ll just use those or it would have cost me £8. 96 otherwise.
750 grams of Jam Sugar which also has pectin in it and it really good for using with fruits that have little pectin in them. The Pectin helps the jam to set better.
The juice of 1 lemon
A knob of butter ( optional)
Place some small side plates into your freezer.
I washed the strawberries using a damp cloth to try and not get too much moisture into them and them hulled and halved them. Fortunately half way through I got a phonecall so I forced my hubbie to take over this bit!
Put the Strawberries, Sugar and lemon juice into a pan and place on the stove at a low heat. You basically want all the sugar to dissolve. Make sure it does not boil at this point! To test if all the sugar has been dissolved I place a spoon in the mix and take it back out and check for granules on the back of the spoon. Also the sugar will stick to the sides of the pan, so occasionally get a brush dipped in warm water and brush the sides of the pan with it to help dissolve all the sugar.
Once all the sugar has been dissolved bring the mix to a boil and boil rapidly for between 5- 10 minutes until the mix is set. I don’t use a thermometer ( nether did my Nannie) so what I do is get a plate from the freezer and place a dob of jam on it, leave it for a few seconds and then press the jam with your finger. If the jam wrinkles and doesn’t move to fill the gap, then the jam has set. I do, however know that my hubbie’s gran made her jam runnier and missed out this stage!
If there is any scum on the top, skim this off and you can also put a knob of butter in the jam to help get rid of any scum. Leave the Jam in the pan for a wee while maybe 8-10 minutes. Its usually during this time I sterilise my jars. I put them in a preheated oven, 130° C for 8-10 mins and I usually put the lids in a basin of boiling water and pat dry with a clean cloth.
Then once jars are sterilised, fill the jars up with jam, not quite to the top and then I usually put in a wax disc on top of the jam, then add the lid.
Given that I had not made jam that often and the number of entries in this class on the day, I didn’t have high expectations, but I actually won 1st Prize! Apparently the judges, according to my mother in law, look for a really vibrant red jam. I have no idea how I managed it, but my jam was the brightest out of the bunch.
I also entered home made lemonade, brownies, lemon drizzle cake and Naniamo bars in their respective classes.
Glass of homemade lemonade class
For homemade lemonade, I used the recipe I had posted about previously but without the strawberries. I was surprised that I was the only entry in this class, so I ended up getting 1st Prize and a Highly Commended for my lemonade. But given the lack of competition this doesn’t count!
4 pieces of brownie class
My brownies were a slight problem given that after making the Naniamo bars, I did not have enough chocolate to use the recipe I wanted to. So much for forward planning! However, good old Delia stepped in with her classic brownie recipe that only used 50 grams of chocolate! I must admit though that the Brownies looked quite ugly, as they sank a bit in the middle, leaving big high crusty ends. I almost did not enter these, but thought I may as well since, despite their looks, they still tasted yummy. I dusted them with icing sugar and called them good. Surprisingly, I got 3rd place with them!!
My lemon drizzle cake and Naniamo bars did not place, but all in all I was well chuffed with getting prizes for my jam and brownies as I had not expected to get anything at all. I had been watching a cooking programme where professional chefs travel around Britain entering classes in the Local shows and it has shown me that even professionals can get it wrong and don’t always meet the criteria set by the judges!
P.s I will post the recipe for Brownies and Naniamo bars at a later date.