Preserving the Season
As summer turns to autumn and the days shorten, we all naturally brace ourselves for the winter ahead. On the upside we can look forward to guiltlessly snoozing fireside under a blanket of weekend papers while the weather turns wild outside, or kicking our way through clusters of fallen leaves as we forage for berries off the beaten track.
And although we no longer need to worry about stocking our larders to keep us going through winter – we have Waitrose for that – a deeply buried instinct compels us to make jams and chutneys, to preserve all we can of the ripening harvest.
Homemade jams are the simplest indulgence; their flavour incomparable with shop bought imposters and no home should be without them, we would even go as far as to say that a home without a jar or two of homespun jam is not a home, but a house.
If you’ve never made jam before, the easiest and most rewarding place to start is raspberry jam. It’s virtually bomb-proof and scone-ready in no time.
Makes 3 450g jars.
900g (2lb) fresh or frozen raspberries
900g (2lb) white sugar, warmed
(use 110g/4oz less if the fruit is very sweet)
Wash, dry and sterilise the jars in the oven for 15 minutes. Put the berries into a wide, stainless steel saucepan. Mash them a little and cook for 3–4 minutes over a medium heat until the juice begins to run, then add the warmed sugar and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is fully dissolved.
Increase the heat, bring to the boil and cook steadily for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently (frozen berries will take 6 minutes).
Test for a set by putting about a teaspoon of jam on a cold plate and leaving it for a few minutes in a cool place. Press the jam with your index finger. If it wrinkles even slightly, it is set. Remove from the heat immediately. Skim and pour into warm sterilised jam jars. Cover immediately.
This recipe is taken from Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking, for the low down on jam making check out this article she wrote for the Guardian How to Make Jam.
Rhubarb and Ginger Jam
It may not have been a great season for berries but Rhubarb has taken on tropical proportions. If you’ve had your fill of fools and crumbles but still have a thriving patch of the stuff, then this may be the jam for you, particularly tasty for breakfast with creamy natural yoghurt and a scattering of blueberries, or dolloped onto a hearty helping of warming porridge.
This recipe uses jam sugar with added pectin, as rhubarb has naturally low levels of pectin. It is taken from the BBC Good Food website.
Makes 4 450g jars
1kg rhubarb, trimmed weight
1kg jam sugar (which has added pectin)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
50g stem or crystallised ginger, finely chopped
4cm piece ginger, peeled
Wash the rhubarb and slice into 2cm pieces. Tip into a large ceramic or plastic bowl and add the jam sugar, lemon zest and juice, and chopped stem ginger. Finely grate the peeled ginger directly over the rhubarb.
Stir the mixture thoroughly, cover loosely with cling film and leave to one side for about 2 hrs to allow the sugar to dissolve into the rhubarb juices. You may need to stir the mixture occasionally to encourage this process along.
Scoop the fruit and all the sugary juices into a preserving pan and set over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved, and bring to the boil. Continue to cook at a fairly swift pace until the rhubarb is really tender and the conserve has reached setting point – this should take about 10-15 minutes.
Test for a set by putting about a teaspoon of jam on a cold plate and leaving it for a few minutes in a cool place. Press the jam with your index finger. If it wrinkles even slightly, it is set. If not, continue to cook for a further couple of minutes and test again.
Remove from the heat immediately. Allow to stand for 2-3 minutes, then pour into warm sterilised jam jars. Cover immediately.
Myth would have it that you can’t cut and eat Rhubarb after July because of the increased levels of oxalic acid, or that it weakens the plant. Neither is true.
This is the most heavenly jam, so sumptuous and indulgent that one feels obliged to wear one’s best pyjamas to breakfast and save it for only the plumpest, homemade loaf.
Makes 4 x 450g jars
1.5kg fresh apricots
1 vanilla pod
Juice of 1 lemon
Halve and stone the fruit, reserving a handful of the stones.
Put the fruit with the sugar into a preserving pan. Score the vanilla pod down its length and cut into three. Add to the fruit and sugar with the lemon juice, stir together and leave to steep for several hours.
If you have the patience, crack the stones with a nutcracker, or wrap them in a tea towel and whack them with a hammer, and remove the kernels. Blanch them in boiling water for 1 minute, plunge into cold water and remove the skins. Split the kernels in two and add to the fruit. They add a lovely extra taste.
When the sugar and apricots have softened, put over a low heat and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Turn up the heat and boil for 20-25 minutes, until the mixture is thick.
Allow to stand for 20 minutes, then pour into warm sterilised jam jars, ensuring that the vanilla and kernels are divided between the bottles. Cover and seal while still hot. Once open, store in the fridge.
Do not be put off by the effort of stoning the fruit, or the thought of acquiring 1.5kg of apricots, this jam is worth every single minute of your time and penny from your purse.