Thursday, 15 July 2010

Making jam

While I've been home every day and not that mobile, I've been listening to a lot of Woman's Hour on Radio 4. I caught a programme the other week where Ghillie James talked about making preserves and decided to order her book online and see what all the fuss was about. I'm not a huge consumer of jam, mainly because I find it far too sweet, and the main thing that drew me to the book was a focus on fruit and flavour over sweetness.

Another big plus in the jam-making process is the small number of ingredients required. I stocked up on special offer punnets of strawberries (800g), raspberries (300g) and blueberries (300g), a pack of jam-making sugar, a jif lemon and an emergency bottle of Pectin - in case it was struggling to set. Raspberries and strawberries have a low pectin content, which can prove problematic. I loosely based what I was doing on Ghillie James' recipe for muddled berry jam, reproduced for the BBC, here. I didn't add orange juice, even though we have some in the fridge, because, you know, I'm 8 months pregnant and I have to make at least one mistake in everything I do at the moment.

Rather than boiling the backside out of your fruit, Ghillie James asks instead that you leave the fruit to macerate for two hours - this releases the juices from the fruits slowly, while keeping the integrity of the flavour, and hopefully some of the nutrients intact.

The first step in the process was to layer up all the fruit, and a few squeezes of jif lemon, with a pack of jam-making sugar. The sugar had the appearance of sea salt, lovely big solid crunchy grains. Yes I did try a bit.

Halfway through the macerating process. Looking good!

Next step: transfer to a heavy pan and simmer for 10-15 minutes. I used my trusty Le Creuset because I wasn't sure how much of a good idea it was to use aluminium with acidic fruits. I can't remember science very well from school.

The fruits start to break down as the mixture starts to bubble.

Next step, boil for 10-15 minutes, until the mixture reaches 104 degrees (and I left my sugar thermometer in my old flat) or until a spoonful sets on a cold side plate.

After five minutes of boiling, I have a mild panic attack for the wellbeing of my lovely range cooker. So I split the mixture into two pans. This may have been detrimental to the jam-making process but it made cleaning up much easier. See my sterilised kilner jars in the background? They're sitting in a bain marie so that I'm not pouring hot jam into cold jars. That's a bit of science I do remember.

So, after sort of getting the jam to a setting point, stirring in about a third of a bottle of pectin to be on the safe side, then reassuring myself with Ghillie James' book that jam continues to set over the next 48 hours, I decide after 20 minutes of boiling that enough is enough and ladle the jam into three jars.

And this is what I'm left with. The next day, the jam is still a little bit wobbly in the jars, but the taste test says I've done a great job. I comfort myself with the thought that this is more of a preserve than a jam, and a million times nicer than shop-bought.
If you enjoyed this post, you might want to check out Answers on a Postcard contributor Vonnie, of Blotted Copybook and The Life Craft, and her recent adventures in tablet making.


Lucy Jackson Designs said...

ooooh tasty fun!

Nancy said...

Ah, how well I remember the good old days when I canned/preserved everything I could get my hands on. Right, I hated canning and making jam and juices. Maybe because I had done so for a zillion years starting out when I was just a girl to help mom. But, I do recall the feeling of accomplishment with lines of jars of preserved food on the shelves.

Anonymous said...

Your jam looks acres better than mine did when I tried to make it! Thanks for the link sweetie :)