Wednesday, 27 August 2014

We're jamming

I love the process of jam-making. It is so gratifying to turn fruit and berries into something delicious you can enjoy throughout the year. I remember those faraway days of my childhood, when I watched my grannies and aunt slaving in the open air summer kitchens, making all kinds of preserves and canning on an almost industrial size. Well, they did have big gardens, and canning is one of the Russian hobbies and pastimes. My aunt's cellar was a true work of art, with shelves groaning under the numerous jars of jams, marmalade, pickles and other preserves.

homemade preserves

These days, I try to make my preserves in small batches, as it is much easier to handle, and also there is a problem of storing. I don't have a cellar, and my kitchen looks like a grocery shop as it is.

homemade jams

After our last PIY session with my Mum and niece, I have cooked two kinds of jams. One was a mixed raspberry blackberry jam, another was a plum jam made with Lady Grey tea.

Blackberry and raspberry jam
1.600kg mixed berries (I had roughly half-half, with slightly more raspberries)
1.600kg sugar
70ml water
2tbsp lemon juice
a blob of butter
I used a mix of granulated and preserving sugar. Typically I don't use the preserving sugar, but I have a few bags left which needed using.
We picked our own berries, so I didn't bother with washing it. Put all the berries in a heavy-based pan (if you have a special preserving pan, use it. I have a big pan which I use for everything, and it works well for jam-making). Squeeze lemon juice over the berries and add some water. Bring to boil.
Lower the heat and simmer the berries for 15 minutes. The berries will be soft and quite mushy.
Add the sugar, stir on low heat until all the sugar has dissolved.
Bring to boil and boil it rapidly for about 12-15 minutes, while it is babbling. Keep skimming the scum off the surface.
Turn off the heat, and add a blob of butter. Let it rest for 10 minutes before pouring with a ladle into sterilised jars.

This jam is lovely spread on toast, spooned into hot croissants or spooned over vanilla or clotted cream ice cream.

homemade preserves

Lady Grey Plum Jam (enough for 8 assorted jam jars)
1,600kg plums
1,600kg sugar
250ml Lady Grey tea
1tsp vanilla essence
1tbsp lemon juice
Brew a mug of Lady Grey tea.
Put the quartered plums into a big pan (stones removed obviously). Pour over the tea and lemon juice. Bring to boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the vanilla essence.
Add the sugar, simmer until all the sugar is dissolved. Bring to boil, then boil rapidly for 15+ minutes. Keep skimming the scum from the surface, and watch the jam. Ideally the amount I cooked, should have been split into two pans, as at times it was dangerously high.
Turn off the heat, add a blob of butter. Let it rest for 10 minutes before ladling into sterilised jars.
This is a soft jam, not exactly runny, but not of the supermarket varieties which are so thick and jellified you can cut it with a knife. Again, great in croissants.

homemade preserves

My tips for jam-making:
1. Ignore the stupid unsolicited EC directives about using just the new jars for canning. If your jars and lids are undamaged, wash them in soapy water and then sterilise well in boiling water for 10 minutes (I put mine 4 at a time in a deep old frying pan which I use just for this purpose, with hot water half way up, bring the water to boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Dry them well and use). I never had a problem with my jams. I just cannot bring myself to buying new jars, when I have so many empties in the kitchen. We eat lots of honey and other preserves, and their jars are perfect for all my own jams and chutneys.
2. Make sure the lids are firmly screwed to the pots. I also cut out a circle of parchment paper to put inside the lid before screwing it on the pot.
3. Once you mastered some basic rules of jamming, don't be afraid to experiment, by adding spices and herbs to your preserves.
4. Be generous with your produce, and don't hoard 30+ jars of apple chutney, you will never be able to eat them all, and they make nice gifts too. I love receiving homemade jams and jellies as gifts.

What jams and jellies have you made recently?


  1. I love home made jam. My mother always used to make jam every year from wild, foraged fruit. I can't justify making it if I have to buy the fruit though, as it's cheaper to just buy the jam!

    1. I agree it's not cost-effective, we calculated with my Mum the cost, but then I know exactly what goes in my jams, no artificial nasties or preservatives. It was a one off really, as usually I am foraging for berries or make jams from my own garden produce

  2. I have a freezer full of blackberries. I really should turn them into some yummy jam. Love your recipes.