Wimbledon, ‘pick–your-own’, Pimms and cream teas ... it’s definitely strawberry season. The grockles (tourists, don’t you know) are descending on the South West in hordes, and cream teas will be consumed in their thousands. But let’s not get involved in a heated debate about its origins and whether it should be the Cornish (jam first) or Devonshire (cream first) etiquette of consumption. Focus instead on the vision of a freshly baked scone smothered in clotted cream and homemade strawberry jam, and then tell me - how do you eat yours, jam or cream first?
Homemade strawberry jam is a revelation in its simplicity. Three ingredients are all it takes to provide you with a slather of gorgeousness on top of your scone.
A large punnet of small strawberries, around 400g
400g of caster sugar (or the same weight as the strawberries in your punnet)
The juice of 1 large lemon
A small knob of butter (optional)
Clean, sterilized jam jars with lids
Makes approximately 400ml of jam.
1. Hull the strawberries and, if you have to, rinse them and pat them dry. Pop them into a large heavy pan, gently combine with the sugar, then cover and leave to macerate for a couple of hours … or overnight, if you prefer. Stir occasionally to get those juices going.
2. When you are ready to make your jam, pop a small saucer into the fridge to chill. You will need this later to check your jam’s setting point.
3. Sterilize your jam jars and lids; wash with hot, soapy water, rinse and then place in a low oven for 30 minutes to warm through whilst you make the jam.
4. Add the lemon juice to the strawberries and sugar in the pan. Bring the mixture to the boil over a low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Keep stirring occasionally and squish some of the larger strawberries against the side of the pan.
5. Boil steadily for about 15 - 20 minutes or until you reach setting point. Check regularly to find out whether your jam has reached setting point by putting a small amount of the hot jam onto the chilled saucer. Leave for a moment and then push the jam with your finger. If it wrinkles on the top, it’s ready. (This is also an ideal opportunity to taste test the jam.)
6. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes. (If the jam is really foamy on top, you can stir in a teeny knob of butter whilst it's still in the pan, and this will help dissipate the foam.) Pour the hot jam into the warm jars, filling to about 1cm from the top. At this point, you can place a waxed disc onto the surface of the jam to help prevent mould, etc, though I find that if you pot and seal whilst the jam is hot, you don’t really require them.
I absolutely refuse to buy those dry and blasphemous little boulders that supermarkets try to fob us off with. A freshly baked scone can and should be a thing of beauty, and it’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that baking of any sort is too difficult and too time-consuming. There’s nothing fancy about the ingredients in a good scone. Most people will have them in their store cupboard and fridge, and the preparation and baking is short and sweet.
275g of self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting, rolling and cutting
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
60g of softened butter or margarine, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons of caster sugar
1 medium egg
100ml of milk
A squeeze of lemon juice
Makes 6 good sized scones.
1. Preheat the oven to 220c/Gas Mark 7/ 425F. Line a baking tray and place in the oven to heat through whilst you make the scones.
2. Place the flour and salt in a large bowl. Working lightly, rub the butter or margarine into the flour until you have a rubbly, breadcrumb consistency. Stir in the sugar.
3. Add the lemon juice to the milk and stir. Whisk the egg and add to the milk, leaving a little to the side to egg-wash the tops of your scones before they go into the oven.
4. Using a butter knife, bring the mixture together quickly into a soft ball. Tip onto a floured surface and then knead very lightly. Roll out to around 2 cm thick and cut into rounds - about 6 or 7cm - using a cookie cutter or a small floured glass. (Don't twist as you cut or you will end up with a wonky scone. Personally, I don't mind this because, as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't affect the flavour ... and they will look far worse where they are going!) Gather together your trimmings, re-roll and repeat.
5. Pop the scones onto the hot baking tray, quickly brush the tops with the egg wash, and bake for 10 - 12 minutes, or until well risen and golden. Dust with icing sugar (optional) and serve with lashings of clotted cream, strawberry jam and a nice pot of tea.
All images courtesy of Bebe Bradley.