I'm not a natural domestic goddess. Far from it. Enthusiastic maybe, but not always very successful. And definitely not a natural.
Over the last two and a half years of blogging about our attempts to live a more wholesome, sustainable life (which naturally includes lots of cooking from scratch) there have been lots of runny marmalade/runny chutney/runny yogurt/runny fudge incidents.
Even my knitting turns out, if not runny, then the knitting equivalent of runny - loose.
Don't mention the cardigan for the new born niece, who's now two, that never got finished.
So it's good to celebrate when things go well. This year the jam actually set. And I mean, really set. Like, #canturnthejarupsidedownanditdoesn'tfallout set. Yay!
My random jam musings
- If there's ever a time when I master jam-making, then it's sod's law that it will coincide with the time that sugar starts being outed as, not just tooth-rotting, but on a par with cocaine. Lighting up parts of the brain 'like a Christmas tree' on MRI scans, I read somewhere. And not in a good way. All around me neighbours and family members are giving up sugar whilst I'm buying kilos of the stuff to preserve fruit. I feel faintly guilty that I'm flying in the face of public health guidance every time I spread a bit of jam on my toast. :-(
- Why has it taken me this long to realise that buying 'preserving sugar' or 'jam sugar' will guarantee that jam or marmalade sets? Perhaps advanced jam makers can live dangerously with ordinary old granulated sugar, pectin, or pectin-rich fruits like lemons or apples. But not me, I'm sticking with jam sugar from now on. Every time.
- The expensive Kilner jam thermometer that I bought a couple of years ago (to try and rectify some of my 'runny' issues) looks lovely but I don't think it is at all accurate. It gets to a certain point and then the needle just sticks, even when I can see that the jam must be getting hotter. Boiling the jam vigorously for ten or so minutes without testing with the thermometer seems to work fine.
- The minute the damsons are ripe, is the time to make damson jam. This year they went from hard to ripe to mouldy really, really quickly and I was almost too late.
- Once you've got the jam sugar and the boiling business sorted, you can pretty much make jam out of anything. It feels like cheating to buy a big bowl of plums from the market for £1 and make plum jam (like I did once I realised my jam was miraculously setting this year and I ought to make the most of it), but I guess it's not. And buying frozen fruit is not off limits either. Just simmer any old fruit with a sloosh of water until it's soft, then add an equal amount of jam sugar (did I already mention the jam sugar...) until the sugar is all dissolved. After that, boil the jam in a mad scientist kind of way for ten minutes or so, and that's all there is to it. Test to see whether it's setting by blobbing some on a saucer that you have already cooled in the freezer. If it's not setting readily, boil it madly for a bit longer. Fridge or freezer jam is made by the same process but using half the amount of sugar (less guilt) therefore needs to be kept in the fridge, or frozen once made, until use.
- Ladling the jam into a jug and then pouring it out is far less messy than trying to ladle it directly into the jars.