During the past few weeks I have been keeping an eye on my Dad's allotment whilst they were away. Luckily it wasn't during the heatwave this time so a lot of the time it was looking after itself. It was in the meantime, producing a tonne of tomatoes, in addition to my own plants at home. But more of that in another post (suffice to say, there was some tomato soup in their fridge ready for them to have for lunch when they got back!). The allotment was also offering up the odd bit of fruit as plants started to head for autumn.
We had already had a delicious rhubarb, strawberry and blackberry crumble...
After that, there was a little bit of odd things - none of it was enough to do much with on its own. I pondered on what I could do with it, and came upon the idea of making some jam.
I don't know about you, but for years, I was always under the impression that jam making generally involved some magic. It just seemed to loiter in my head as some very fine art that the likes of mere mortals as myself would never be able to conquer.
Well, turns out it's not quite so much of a dark art as I thought! I've not made loads of jam and the first batch I made several years ago was probably a bit thick really - but still edible for a first go, even if you did sort of have to cut it into sticky chunks...
I was taking a bit of a risk on this batch really too as I didn't have an actual recipe with quantities or anything and who knew what the mixture of fruits was going to taste like. You know, some mixes work and some are a bit off. Either way, the fruit was just sitting there so there wasn't much to lose.
After a bit of scouting around for sugar quantities, I went for a basic theory on adding the same weight of sugar to fruit, with a good splash of lemon juice for good measure. I then prepared the fruit:
* One stick of rhubarb (fairly thick)
* One bag of frozen gooseberries, thawed (these had broken down in the thawing process but going in a jam, it didn't seem as if it would matter too much
* About three blackberries (I know!)
* A small handful of yellow raspberries - these are delicious and a much softer flavour than traditional red one. I think they are called 'All Gold'
* One punnet of plums
* A few bits of pear
Everything but the pears, which had started to turn a bit soft and the plums were from the allotment. These two items had come in my veggie box. Dad doesn't use any sprays up at the allotment and the box is an organic one so there was a distinct lack of nasties to go in my jam mix - marvellous!
I cooked the fruit down, probably a little bit further than I intended because I had forgotten completely that I had it on the heat and got distracted doing something else! Scooting out to the kitchen when I remembered, the fruit was fine and hadn't stuck or anything. I splashed in the lemon juice and added the sugar, stirring it all the time until it dissolved completely.
This resulted in loosening the mixture quite a lot. I turned up the heat until it was boiling but only slightly and then turned it down again for a little longer. I know various recipes say to 'boil rapidly' but frankly, as soon as it started to boil, the stuff was flying out in all directions! A lower heat seemed the best option. I kept stirring for a while, until it started to get to a more 'jammy'* consistency (*technical term), and then popped a blob on a cool saucer and quickly placed it in the freezer for a few minutes.
When it came out, I could push the jam and make it wrinkle a little, before it scooped up onto my finger. Obviously I had to taste then, and gosh, it was delicious! I think it probably depends a bit on how you like your jam. If you like quite a runny (not liquid!) jam, then this stage is fine, but for a slightly thicker jam, you could leave it to cook a bit longer. I quite like a 'loose' jam as I find it is easier to spread. So, take the pan off the heat, grab a couple of sterilised jars and a jam funnel and...
As I say, I didn't have loads of anything so it only made two pots, but that's fine with me. The one on the right has been jazzed up a bit because I couldn't get the label off properly originally and I'm giving it to the parentals (it was mostly their fruit after all!) so a bit of pretty paper and double sided tape later - fit for presenting!
Excuse the munching marks on this one, I forgot I was supposed to be photographing it before I dived in! There was a little too much jam to fit into both pots, so we had to each have a bit of bread and jam for supper. What a shame!
I'm really glad I overcame the 'fear' of making jam. I may well have just been lucky with this batch and the next one might be awful but who knows? It seemed to work this time just fine. Obviously the fruits I was using had enough pectin to make it viable - something with a lower level like strawberries, might be a bit more tricky. The key thing is, just to try! I'm really glad I did.
I'd love to hear about any jam making you've been doing, or any recipes you've just come up with to use up leftovers that have turned out great!