OFM editor Allan Jenkins joins film-maker Howard Sooley on a fishing boat pilgrimage to the Lagavulin distillery on the Hebridean island of Islay The pla...
Sunday, 26 October 2008
It's taken me a long time to come round to making jam and various other preserves. Not because I was unused to it, quite the reverse in fact. I grew up in post war Britain. My Mum was the stay at home housewife of the 1950s. Food wasn't too plentiful yet. My Dad grew everything in the garden and his allotment. We wanted for nothing in the healthy food department. As happens there is always a glut of produce when you grow your own. No freezers back then so it had to be pickled, chutneyd jammed or dried to enjoy during the winter months when fruit and veg were not so readily available. No Tescos then if you fancied strawberries in December. The very thought would have raised a howl of laughter. I digress. My Mum made copious amounts of jam and various other preserves. She seemed to spend the summer and autumn bent over her cauldron, as I liked to think of it, making jam out of everything. Even marrows. How disgusting is that? Why my Dad grew them I don't know as nobody liked them so of course they were turned into jam. I think it was that that finally turned me against jam. I feel as if I spent my childhood swimming in the stuff. I didn't eat it for years. I tried some store bought stuff on occasion and it didn't impress. Then it all changed. I had some strawberries that were a little past their best. I didn't want to waste them. To my horror a light bulb went off in my head and I thought I'd make jam. I seem to be turning into my mother as the years pass. Oh what a treat I've been missing in those intervening years and so easy to make. My grandson loves strawberry jam and I refuse to fill him with nasties in the manufactured variety. Thank goodness I have realised I don't need to make the vast quantities produced in my childhood nor a cauldron either. Fresh jam smeared on fresh baked bread or toast. Simply delicious.
Soft berries such as strawberries or raspberries benefit from having the sugar sprinkled over them and left overnight. It helps to keep the fruit whole in the jam. I can't be bothered. I have a strange family anyway. They like their fruit smushed up in jam. I did try it once and it worked really well with the strawberries. Big whole strawberries in the jam. It was greeted with horror so back into the pan it went and had some treatment from the potato masher.
Strawberries are very low in pectin so they don't set too well. You can add lemon juice and faff about with granulated sugar and pray that it will set but I find it easier just buy jam sugar. It has added pectin. Makes life a lot less complicated. I'm all for the simple route.
You need 1 pound of sugar for every pound of fruit.
About half a dozen sterilised jam jars ( I do this in the oven)
A large saucepan (or a cauldron if you have one)
Put the fruit and the sugar in the pan.
Heat gently until all the sugar is dissolved stirring now and again to stop it catching
Rack up the heat and boil pretty furiously for about 15 mins.
To test for a set put a wee dribble of jam on a cold plate. If it wrinkles after a few minutes your done. If not boil for another few minutes and so on. You won't have any bother with the jam sugar.
To get rid of the scum stir in a knob of butter and stir it round.
Let it sit for a moment or two then pot up in your nice warm jars.
Add the juice of a lemon at the start if you can't get or don't want to use jam sugar.
I have added this picture to a contest on this blog Jugalbandi. This is a new thing for me. The topic is Red.