This blog as a whole goes off in all sorts of different directions at no notice – much like my brain. So excuse me following that stream of tirades up with a post about jam-making. It took my mind off the woeful state of the economy yesterday.
I made some jam 2 years ago from some raspberries we picked. I gave my Dad some. He still raves about it. This is rare from my father. I have vowed to make more jam, so I snaffled up a job lot of plums from the lonely abandoned fruit section of the supermarket last week. They were actually pretty un-ripe, so I left them stewing in their own plastic for a while and then finally got round to making it yesterday.
Jam making is one of those things that you think is going to take forever and be difficult and messy and you need lots of equipment for. It’s really not. It’s dead easy. Here’s how I make it:
Firstly, and stick with me here, take a side plate and put it in the freezer. Just do it.
Get a load of plums. I had roughly about a kilo.
Get a slightly less quantity of sugar. I used 900g. For plums, because they are naturally high in pectin, there’s no need to use fancy jam sugar. Ordinary caster sugar will do. Because I am a country housewife, I happened to have a couple of jars of vanilla sugar* in my pantry (oh, yes, I have a pantry. It slides out the wall and everything. JELS.), so I used a jar of that and the rest caster, probably about a 70:30 split.
Chop up the plums a bit, add about 250mls of water and stew them in a large pot for about 30 minutes. You should bring it to the boil and then simmer it for a bit. It might take longer if, like me, you forget to add the water at the start and have to add it about 10 minutes in.
Once the fruit is all nicely broken down and you have what is looking worrying like a lumpy fruity soup, add the sugar. You should be stirring it over a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved. You can see when it has dissolved by looking at it on the spoon – no granules. This took a lot less time than I thought it would.
Then you need to wang the heat back up and boil it for 10 minutes or so. You should resist the urge to stir it but I did a bit to make sure it didn’t stick to the bottom of my pot. This is where it can get a wee bit scary. Don’t boil it for too long – you’ll know when too long is – it will go all gloopy and start to smell like toffee. That’s too long. If in doubt, take it off the heat.
To check it’s ready, take a wee spoonful of jam and dollop it on that plate you’ve just taken out the freezer. It will set and look a bit like, well, jam. If it’s still runny, boil it a bit more. My test is to run the spoon through the middle of the puddle of jam. If the two sides stay separated more or less, it’s jam.
Whilst all this has been taking place, you should have been sterilising your jars. I do hope you read through this before you started cooking. I never throw a jar away, I have boxes of them in the garage. My guilty jar-hoarding shame. But who’s laughing now, eh? To sterilise, wash them thoroughly. Put them in a low oven, about 140, whilst you’re making the jam. For the lids, stick them in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, just prior to you being at the end of jam making.
When the jam’s ready, take your jars out the oven, being careful not to a) burn yourself or b) touch the insides of them. Ladle your jam into the jars whilst both are hot – it will stop the jars cracking. Take your lid out the water and screw it on tight whilst still hot – this creates the seal which will keep it fresh. No fannying about with wax discs and cellophane here.
Et voila – jam.
Bonne Maman, eat your heart out. This is a kind of variation on this recipe, which is a handy one as it gives you info on other soft fruits, too. I say variation as I started reading it about half way through the process when I lost my post-it with my own method scribbled on it. It tastes really nice, that’s the main thing. The above was enough for 3 jars. I have enough plums for about 4 more. Hurrah!
*You can make vanilla sugar really easily too. Get some ordinary caster sugar. Get a vanilla pod. Cram them both in a jar. Leave for ages. You can even keep topping the jar up when you’ve used the sugar. See also St Clements sugar (replace vanilla with dried orange/lemon), lavender sugar (dried lavender), etc.