jamming lessons

 

 

jars of jam

 

I needed to empty my freezer of some of the spare fruit stashed in there.  This stash takes the form of brambles (blackberries), elderberries, damsons and plums so I decided to make more jam to add to my burgeoning supplies.

jam on toast

My stash is becoming hugely diverse in flavours be it jams or chutneys and comes in such mixes as melon and orange, marrow and ginger, plain old plum, damson, bramble and apple, apple and lavender jelly, beetroot chutney or apple and plum chutney but I am always on the scrounge for new ingredients that I can put in my maslin pan and I am always looking out for new recipes to pique a bit of pallet interest.

I love the concept of one pot cooking, be it casseroles, rissotttos, soups or anything else that effectively involves chucking (in an orderly and timely fashion of course) all your ingredients into a big cauldron (ah, there is something in that) so jam making is right up my street.

marrow and ginger jam

I only really started making Jams last year but since I am never more delighted than when receiving a culinary treat, it inspires me to make similar and I just love the personal touch a foody gift has especially when you present it to a generous host (along with the requisite gallons and gallons of wine!).

I read somewhere recently that the only thank you a guest should arrive with is an edible or quaffable one!!  I couldn’t agree more.

bramble and elderberry jam

Anyway today it was to be bramble and elderberry jam, damson jam and damson and plum jam.

 

The bramble and elderberry was a treat and tastes divine, not to mention the amazing colour.

Some of the damsons had been stoned in the vein hope that I might make a pudding (not something I do with any kind of regularity, I’m afraid, and probably to the disappointment of most people who sit around our table to be fed!).

 

sweet plums

 

I did learn a jamming lesson today though and that is:- the pectin from plum stones is invaluable and removing the stones before cooking makes the setting process a lot harder, especially if you are like me and prefer to use natural sources of pectin to adding it from a packet.

 

plum and apple chutney

roughly chopped plums

Last year was my first and timid venture into the world of jam making. I had been inspired to try it when I discovered a Damson tree on the farm laden with ripened fruit.  My attempts at Damson Jam and then Hedgerow Jelly weren’t a complete disaster so it filled me with enthusiasm and I have since invested in a maslin pan, some other jam making bits of kit and have been saving jam jars like a mad person.

I recently tried marrow and ginger jam and bramble and apple jam, thoroughly enjoying the process.  It appeals to my general approach to cooking which should involve only one pot where ever possible!

I also tried beetroot chutney last year but have not ventured into the world of chutney much since. I can’t think of anything tastier though than a nice pickle with a lump of tasty mature cheese so chutneys and pickles are something I want to perfect.

Last week I made my own version of Plum & Apple Chutney using plums we collected at the weekend and limited myself to the various contents of our cupboards and fridge!!  I had, however, checked out a few recipes and was confident I had the makings of a pretty tasty chutney.

Ingredients

1.4kg apples (I used Bramley)

1.4kg of stoned plums (I used Victoria Plums)

350g of muscavado sugar (I used a mostly brown)

200g of sultanas

75g of peeled and finely chopped root ginger

2 tsp of cider vinegar

2 onions chopped (red is better)

1 tsp of ground black pepper

8 cloves

tsp of nutmeg

some ingredients in maslin pan

Method

Roughly chop fruit (leaving skins on but taking stones out of plums and cores out of apples), finely chop ginger, chop onions.

Put all ingredients into a pan and stir well.

all ingredients mixed in pan ready for cooking

Gently bring ingredients up to boiling, stirring all the time to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Turn down to simmer for about 1.5 hours uncovered and until it starts to thicken.  Stir occassionallly.

Bring to boil again for about 10 minutes or until you can see the bottom of the pan (even for a split second) when you drag the spoon/ladle across the bottom.

If you can find them, remove the cloves.

Transfer to sterilized jars (I sterilize in the oven).

Allow to cool and label.

plum and apple chutney

It is really tasty and I’m incredibly pleased with my seven or so jars of Plum & Apple Chutney.

a secret orchard

cooking apples

The farm has an orchard tucked away alongside one of their crop fields which we didn’t know about last year. It has only just come to our attention through a conversation last weekend.

It is off the road and can’t be seen so it gets a little abuse by the occasional local who knows about it. The farm can’t keep an eye on it as it is a bit out of the way to be watched really but there is a lot of fruit.  I’m sure there is enough to go around.

apples and plums

It was planted a long time ago and was harvested every year and the produce was boxed up and sent off for sale. There is an old orchard ladder in the dike as you approach the edge of the orchard which would have been used by whoever was working to harvest.  The ladder is only really used by the farmer’s wife and a couple of the farm hands who have been shown it and can help themselves.  Now it is used by us!!

preparing

It is such a privilege to have access to this free food and I can tell you, it is pretty tasty.  We spent a few hours on Sunday afternoon picking (and sampling of course!) the apples (cookers), brambles, plums (the sweetest tasting ever), victoria plums (not ready yet), a type of tiny yellow plum (which I now know is a mirabelle plum), damsons (not ready yet) and pears (also not ready yet).

we are going back the next weekend we are there to check out the other plums, pears and damsons and perhaps pick some more apples but in the meantime, we got plums, brambles and apples to get started on.

ingredients

At the moment my confidence with jam making and chutneys isn’t very high and I certainly haven’t enough courage to tackle bottling or other rather complicated sounding processes so I am going to stick at the simple jam making processes and hopefully get more adept at it.

I was very happy with the outcome of my marrow and ginger jam so I thought I would have a go at bramble and apple, plum and then lavender flower jelly with the apples.

bramble and apple jam in the pot

Country living’s September issue was my weekend reading and could not have been better suited to our foraging. It has these very recipes in it along with a recipe for lavendar jelly, sloe jam, and also pear with peach jam.

The Bramble & Apple Jam recipe is as follows:

Brambles / Blackberries (whatever weight you have managed to forage) washed, de-stalked and checked for bugs.

Brambly Cooking Apples / Crab Apples (1/3 of the weight of brambles you collected). peeled, cored and chopped into small chunks

Sugar (equivalent in weight to brambles)

1/4 pint of water

juice of 2 lemons

cook all brambles with half of the lemon juice until softened.

cook apples in remaining lemon juice until soft.

put apples and brambles together in maslinpan with water and sugar.

heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring regularly.

bring to boil rapidly for about 20 mins or until setting point is reached.

skim off scum.

pop into warm sterilized jars.

label when cold.

bramble and apple jam

The Plum Jam recipe is as follows:

Plums (whatever weight you have managed to forage) washed, de-stalked and stones removed. keep the stones and pop into muslin bag.

Sugar (equivalent in weight to brambles)

1/4 pint of water

juice of 2 lemons. keep the lemon skins and pips and pop into the muslin bag with the plum stones.

cook all the plums and the lemon juice until softened. put the muslin bag od stones and lemons into pan half way through cooking and leave until ready to boil.

add water and sugar.

heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring regularly. remove muslin bag and discard.

bring to boil rapidly for about 20 mins or until setting point is reached.

skim off scum.

pop into warm sterilized jars.

label when cold.

plum jam

I ran out of time for anything else and have a load of cooking apples left along with some lavender flowers from the garden so I am going to do that lavender jelly jam next.