I’ve been very lucky this year that the sun has shone and the plants have gone into overdrive. Our wild blackberry bush has offered a new batch of berries each day. Although it’s so tall I’ve had to resort to playing ‘Blackberry Bingo’ and dragging them off the tree with a rake and catching as many as I can. This often resulted in me rather over enthusiastically climbing into the the spiky bush and getting my curls and rake entangled. Once I managed to extract myself from the bush, mostly covered in scratches, I proudly produced my first batch of Summer Jam. Blackberry and Cinnamon.
Turning to the old faithful Marguerite Patten cookbook for endless jam flavour combinations and recipes I attempted to use my sugar thermometer to ensure I got a good set. Unfortunately the jam bubbled so vigorously it reached the top of the pot, so no temperatures could be read. I will continue to just follow my instincts when testing if it has set sufficiently. Does it coat the back of a spoon or crinkle when poured on a plate? How beautifully obscure these testing methods seem, until you have a pot of molten jam in front of you.
The only problem with blackberries, is the seeds. They must be removed from your jam. I only own a plastic sieve and forced the jam through it with a ladle, hoping the sieve wouldn’t melt or split. It was rather more robust than I expected and survived 2 rounds of blackberry jam, one with cranberries and one with cinnamon! Can you spot the mountain of candied blackberry seeds in the background? (Recipe at the bottom of the page).
Once I exhausted my supply of blackberries and foraged far and wide, we were offered a huge bag of plums from a friend who’s tree was flourishing. Of course I said yes and made my first venture into chutney. Spiced Plum Christmas Chutney to be exact (recipe at the bottom of the page). I wanted to make something that I could give as presents to family and friends to eat with their leftover Christmas meats and cheeses. Chutney was surprisingly easy (yet eye wateringly pungent with all the red wine vinegar!) to make. I will definitely be making more.
So inspired by my jam efforts I spotted extremely cheap strawberries at our local market and thought I’d give Strawberry Jam a go too! Thankfully strawberry seeds are so small they don’t really have to be removed from the jam, so no arm aching sieving required for this quick and tasty jam! And it goes surprisingly well with Mickey Mouse waffles, espresso, creme fraiche and berries.
Another wonderful friend offered me as many apples as I could carry from his very successful tree. I trotted off very merrily with almost 7kg of apples! I spent one Saturday peeling and chopping (thank god for my food processor!) 5kg, transforming them into a double batch of my favourite Apple and Ginger Jam and a new Christmas Chutney, Spiced Apple. Which I can confirm does taste delicious with cold leftover meats. Pork works very well! (Recipe at the bottom of the page)
Not wanting to waste a single scrap of apple I peeled, sliced and dried thin slices in the oven on a low heat, to save for future healthy snacks and bakes. I even managed to peel, core, slice, soak in a watered down lime juice the final kg of apples to store in the freezer for a rainy day, of which I expect there will be many this Winter. I forsee a lot of apple crumble in my future.
I hope I don’t spoil the surprise but I’m stock piling all my jams and chutneys to give to my favourite family and friends for Christmas. I hope they like it! I think I’m going to need a bigger cupboard and more jars!
Spiced Plum Chutney Ingredients
- 1kg plums, halved, stoned and finely chopped
- 3 onions, finely chopped
- 100g dried cranberries or raisins, roughly chopped with an oiled knife
- 1 tbsp finely grated ginger
- 1 tbsp black mustard seed
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 2 tsp nigella seeds (onion seeds)
- 750ml red wine vinegar
- 500g light muscovado sugar
Chutney Making Method
- Chop up the onions and fruit
- Put everything in the biggest pot you have and heat
- Stir til all the sugar is dissolved
- Bring to the boil
- Simmer for 30 minutes (or so) until it’s thick and pulpy
- Decant into sterilised jars, seal with wax discs.
- Put the lids on whilst still hot to keep the jars sterile
- Clean up the outside of the jars and label.
- Store in a cool dark place.
- Chutney should keep for up to 6 months and will only taste better with age
- Once opened keep your jar in the fridge.
Spiced Apple Chutney Ingredients
- 1½ kg cooking apples, peeled and diced
- 750g light demarera sugar
- 500g sultanas
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 2 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp nigella seeds (black onion seeds)
- 1 black of stem ginger sliced finely
- 1 tsp salt
- 350ml cider vinegar
- 400ml white wine vinegar
Method as before
Eat with lashing of cold leftover meats, cheeses or whack it in a sandwich for a quick festive hit.
Some jam recipes suggest using jam sugar, but it’s so expensive I don’t bother. Instead I allow the fruit to stew first to release it’s own natural pectin to help it set. The basic rule of jam is for most fruit (depending on their levels of pectin) is to allow equal amounts of fruit to sugar, adding lemon juice if there’s a lack of pectin. Apples have a good amount of pectin in them so you can always add them to berries when making jam to help with the set too.
Apple and Ginger Jam – revisited and revised
I previously made this recipe and followed Marguerite Patten’s recipe. You can see this post here.
- 1000g diced apples
- 2 Tbsp of ground ginger
- 3 balls of stem ginger finely sliced
- 1000g granulated sugar
- Chop fruit up into small pieces
- Soak in ground spices
- Stew fruit slowly
- Add sugar and stir over low heat until dissolved
- Boil rapidly for 10-20 minutes (or so). The quicker the boil the better the set, but you must keep an eye on it, to stop it burning or going past it’s setting point.
- Jam is set when it reaches 105 degrees C (if using a sugar thermometer) or when it becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon – dripping slowly off it. Or if you drop a bit on a cold plate it crinkles when you push it with your finger.
- Decant the very hot jam when it reaches a good set, into the hot sterilised jars.
- Put on waxed paper circles and lids.
- Store in a cool dry place.
- It should keep well if no moisture gets in to the jars for at least 6 months.
- Once opened keep your jar in the fridge.
- 1kg strawberries
- 1kg granulated sugar
- 3 tbsp lemon juice (or half a lemon)
Method as above but with strawberries the fruit didn’t break down massively. You can leave your fruit whole in chunks if you prefer or if you prefer a smother jam, blitz it with a hand held blender, careful not to splash yourself with boiling hot jam though!
Blackberry and Apple Jam
- 2 apples sliced and diced
- 750g blackberries
- 1kg granulated sugar
- A splash of lemon juice
Method as above but strained the jam through the sieve to remove the seeds as I decanted it into the sterile jars.
Blackberry, Cranberry and Cinnamon Jam
- 500g of frozen cranberries (defrosted)
- 500g blackberries
- 1000g of cinnamon (or in my case cassia bark) infused sugar – stick the bark in a jar of sugar and leave to infuse for a week or so
Method as above but I strained the jam through the sieve to remove the seeds as I decanted it into the sterile jars.