The English countryside is my favourite place to be. The aged cottages and wild hedgerows are fantastic subjects, and the occasional neighbour or farmer who comes across me painting in the lanes always stops for a friendly hello. I tried something different with this painting, trying to put all the abundance of the summer countryside on the page. I used watercolour, and over-layed different flowers and foliage from the area to build into a full-bloom with some accents of poppies, dog roses, and forget-me-nots.
To test it, I had the design printed on some linen, and found I loved it even more. Now I can have the bright floral of a hot summer with me in the house on throw cushions, napkins and bunting. I like the pattern indoors, bringing out outside in, and loved it for a birthday picnic, and in the nursery.
Wildflowers are a particular pleasure of mine and a great source of inspiration for me. I love the vibrancy, the colours, the unpredictability. My absolute favourite are always English fields in spring filled with wild berries and rabbits. There is something magical about dandelions as big as your fist, or bumblebees that look fluffy enough to pat.
Wash, hull and roughly quarter (or halve) your strawberries. Dry off gently with a tea towel and place in a large sauce pan. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir together over a low heat. As the mix warms, the strawberries will begin to release their liquid.
Gently increase the heat to Medium/Low and leave on a gentle simmer. It’s a slow process, but too high a heat will overcook the jam, resulting in a dark, hard gum. After about 10 minutes your mix should be quite soupy and loose with a beautiful, vibrant colour.
Stir intermittently, and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes while occasionally skimming the foam from the surface.
Turn the heat down low and place a small clean plate in the freezer to test the jam with later. The best way I’ve found to test if the jam is ready, is to dollop a small amount onto a cold plate and leave in the fridge for about five minutes. Your jam is ready when you can gently push your finger against the dollop and it wrinkles up, rather than flooding out as a liquid. If you first jam test is not yet setting, leave on a low heat for another 10 minutes and try again.
This recipe will fill one medium sized jam jar (around 500g). Remember to sterilise your jar before decanting, (either in the oven, hot washing machine, or by boiling). Decant hot jam in a warm jar, or if your jar has cooled, allow your jam to cool too.
This is a lovely thing to do on a Sunday afternoon. It’s a great way to use up abundant seasonal fruit, and makes a great gift (especially with personalised flavours). Or like me, eat it by the spoonful.