When I was out walking the dog one weekend I noticed the amount of fruit growing where we live; bushes heaving with wild blackberries, trees laden with cooking apples and opal plums. I decided I wanted to make something with all this free food and so a weekend of jam and apple tart making with my mammy ensued. Jam seems like something that would be really tricky and stressful to make but it's actually really simple. We used Darina Allen's Forgotten Skills of Cooking as our guide, with some adjustments to suit what we wanted. Her book is a wealth of information on traditional cooking, baking and preserving. When choosing the fruits you want to use for your jam, it's important to consider the amount of pectin in the fruit. It is the pectin that helps the jam set, you can use special jam making sugar that contains pectin but why add extra expense when you probably already have granulated sugar at home. Instead combine fruits low in pectin with those high in it. High pectin fruits include apples and plums while those low in pectin include raspberries. The first jam we made was a plum and apple jam, if you want to give it a whirl you will need the following:
1 lb of plums
1 lb of cooking apples
1.5 lb of granulated sugar
Firstly we chopped and peeled our apples, then cut the plums in half and removed the stones. Next we combined the fruit in a large stainless steel saucepan and added 150 ml of water. Then fruit was cooked over a medium heat for 25 minutes until the fruit is soft. At the same time the sugar is heated in a low oven for 15 minutes until hot to touch. The sugar is then added to the fruit and stirred until dissolved. The mixture is than boiled for 10 minutes until it begins to set. To sterilize your jam jars place them in the oven at 180°C for 10-15 minutes. The jam is then poured into hot sterilized jars and left to finish setting.
That's really all there is to it, just keep them stored in a cool, dry place and enjoy eating them. This actually cost me nothing to make as I just picked the fruit, recycled old jam jars and we had some sugar in the press. Homemade jams like these make really cute gifts and can be decorated like mine with some material and ribbon.
Next up: Blackberry & Apple Jam