Out in the garden I have an area used to grow soft fruit. At the moment the big crop is blackcurrants, which have produced big time this year. The currants are big and juicy and there are a lot of them, I estimate about 10 kilos. I have already made two and a half loads of jam – the half load included some raspberries and strawberries. As I received quite a few hits with my homemade / home-grown ratatouille I am going to put up some more ideas and recipies.
Making jam is a way of preserving fruit for those times of year when there is nothing growing in the garden. It is pretty good at preserving much of the vitamin and mineral content of the fruit, but the volume of sugar is a bit of a downer. When you jam fruit you extract the pectin from the fruit. Pectin is a protein found in the pips and skin of the fruit. Some fruits jam more readily than others. Normally blackcurrants are bursting with pectin, but this year it is not jamming nearly so well. You may need to add pectin to the fruit when making the jam. You mix the powdered pectin in with the sugar before adding it to the cooking fruit or buy sugar with pectin already added or use liquid pectin. There is also special preserving sugar, which I do not use as I can’t tell the difference except the crystals are a bit bigger. It is also recommended in some places to use cane rather than beet sugar, but chemically they are identical.
You will need a big, heavy-bottomed pan, a set of scales and a wooden stirring implement, jars to put the jam in – oh, and a saucer.
Recipe for blackcurrant jam
Note: This liquid is very hot, hotter than boiling water, and sticks like napalm. Be very cautious when filling the jars, taking the jars from the oven or handling the hot jam in any way. Wear an apron and keep a damp cloth handy for wiping up any spills.
- Pick 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of the fruit, remove the stalks, wash it and leave it some moisture on the surface. Weigh out an equal weight of sugar
- Put a little water in the bottom of the pan and bring to a fast boil. Add the fruit, turn the heat down, cover and cook for five minutes.
- Add the sugar and bring back to the boil, stirring to prevent burning. Cook on a moderate heat, uncovered, for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
- Test the jam by drizzling a little onto the saucer. When the surface forms a skin after a few seconds the jam is ready. Turn the heat off.
- Put washed jars into the oven, without the lids; five or six jars of standard size should be enough. Set the heat to 100 deg. c and leave the jars to warm through for five minutes. This kills any bacteria and stops the glass exploding when the jam is put in!
- Take the jars out of the oven and put on a washable surface. Use a jug to pour the jam into the warm jars, leaving a centimetre gap at the top of each jar.
- Put the lids onto the jars and tighten. While wearing oven gloves, make sure the seal is tight, then invert the jar briefly to make the seal even better. Put jars right-way up somewhere to cool. This takes some hours and you should notice the jar lids pop as the air inside reduces in volume forming a partial vacuum.
- Once cool, put labels on the jars, telling you what it is and giving a date. It will last for years, even maturing a little, but it can go too far!
Delicious on fresh bread – method for making sourdough loaves to follow.
The best soundtrack for this is Michelle Shocked – Strawberry Jam