I always thought jam-making was one of the dark arts.
It seemed to involve little old ladies stirring bubbling concoctions for hours. Possibly days. Probably on a special phase of the moon! Eldritch equipment and terminology was bandied about. Special pans, thermometers, pectin testing, sterilisations....a whole day would be given over to it.
And though the house smelled lovely, the end product seemed dark and sticky and just, well, too home-made!
Jars of black, tar-like, strong smelling, over-seeded, bizarre blends of gerkin and raspberry, marrow and parsnip and strawberry would be pressed upon me, which I would dutifully put inthe back of my cupboard, along with murky looking chutneys and pickles. Then, a year
later, I would sling 'em....
Meanwhile, each supemarket visit would see me buying nice, reliable Robinsons, or more latterly the middle-class yummy-mumminess of Bonne Maman.
But see, jam-making is easy these days! It really has been a revelation. I can go and pick 200 g of raspberries at 8am, and by 8.45, be pouring bright, tangy, fruity, scarlet gorgeousness into my jars!
Someone somewhere, decided to provide us undomestic godesses with a special sugar, with added pectin (the gelling agent). You can't go wrong! There are even different sorts of preserving jam for different kinds of fruits.
I'm probably preaching to the converted, but just in case my one reader wants to have a go and is as mystified as my former self at the whole process, here's how I make jam. Please note, I am terrible at following recipes so this has been a sort of trial and error. Also please note, so far, I have limited myself to raspberry jam and gooseberry jam.
I make small quantities of jam, as my harvests never seem to provide me with the larger quantities of fruit required all at once. I heat the oven to sterilise my jars, and wash the fruit (usually around 200-400g worth). In a heavy-bottomed pan, I heat the fruit until it is liquidy, then add a tspn of butter. Then around the same quantity of preserving sugar as fruit. Take jars out of oven and cool. (They will be blooming hot!)
The sugar must dissolve in the simmering mixture, then bring to a rolling boil, scoop off any 'scum' and keep boiling until you notice the jam starting to gel. Put a little on a metal teaspoon to see this better, it will look set and 'puckery'. Then allow to cool for 5 mins before pouring into jar, use a wax circle (Lakeland have them in packs of 200 which will last me for decades :)) to seal, put on lid and bung on a label.
You can also use a microwave to sterilise jars, but Ii don't have one!
It may not be up to Women's Institute standards, or win any prizes at a produce show, but it is delicious and fruity, and with some home-made bread, is one of the compensations of saying farewell to Summer...