Jam to­day!

Noth­ing beats the flavour of home-made jams, says Mary Kemp, and now is the time to get busy

EDP Norfolk - - My Culinary County - Mary Kemp

While growing up I only re­ally re­mem­ber eat­ing home­made jam. Made in batches, la­belled and dated in mum’s hand­writ­ing, it was one of the things my mother did with­out fail, every year, along­side mak­ing chut­neys and jars of pick­les. There was al­ways enough to last us through the win­ter. I do re­mem­ber the odd jar of Robertson’s jam ap­pear­ing in the kitchen at tea time when sup­plies were low, but it’s the la­bel that I re­call rather than the flavour of the fruit!

Its jam-mak­ing sea­son and the box of jars and lids I have col­lected over the year now come into their own, though it’s a bit like socks; I seem to end up with a few odds and ends that don’t match! It may seem a real per­for­mance to make jam, but it’s not; it’s just one of those ‘turn on Ra­dio Four and lis­ten to

The Archers with a glass of wine’ mo­ments.

It takes a lit­tle time to pre­pare the fruit and weigh the in­gre­di­ents and you need to avoid rush­ing off to do 101 other things. Many old recipes will talk about quan­ti­ties of fruit in 10lbs or more and a moun­tain of su­gar, but I find it’s so much eas­ier and less daunt­ing mak­ing jam in smaller quan­ti­ties, of­ten with the odd left-over pun­net of fruit. Suc­cess­ful jam mak­ing de­pends on the qual­ity of the in­gre­di­ents, but more im­por­tant is the in­ter­ac­tion of three in­gre­di­ents in the right pro­por­tion; su­gar, pectin and acid.

All fruits con­tain these, but a jam maker will al­ways add more su­gar and some­time more acid and pectin. Black­cur­rants, for in­stance, are full of pectin and straw­ber­ries are not, so ad­just­ments are in or­der.

Home­made straw­berry jam is won­der­ful, though it can be one of the most tem­per­a­men­tal jams to make as it doesn’t al­ways set. But if you add a small amount of home­made red­cur­rant juice to your recipe, the set will be much more re­li­able and the deep red juice will en­hance the flavour and of­ten the colour. The red­cur­rant juice can be made and frozen in small batches, and added to the straw­ber­ries as you make your jam.

Just boil 1lb of red­cur­rants with 6floz of wa­ter then sim­mer for about 20 min­utes, and strain. Then just add ¼ pt of red­cur­rant juice to every 4lb of straw­ber­ries and 3¾ lb of su­gar. Fail­ing this, the juice of two lemons will also make all the dif­fer­ence.

The eas­i­est jam to make is rasp­berry. It’s so quick that you can have a batch of scones bak­ing at the same time; both fresh and ready to eat. The recipe I use, which I think is an old WI recipe, uses equal quan­ti­ties of fruit to su­gar. As you ster­ilise the jars in the oven for about 10 min­utes, the oven is also used to heat the su­gar through.

Cook the rasp­ber­ries in a stain­less steel saucepan for around four min­utes, un­til the juices be­gin to run. Then add the hot su­gar and bring the jam to the boil, stir­ring over a gen­tle heat un­til the su­gar has dis­solved, and boil steadily for five min­utes, stir­ring well. Test the set and then pour into ster­ilised jars.

There are sev­eral ways to test the set, and lots of won­der­ful gad­gets you can buy, but the best is the way my mother uses, a spoon­ful on a cold saucer; not very sci­en­tific but it works per­fectly, as do many of these won­der­ful old recipes. Find out more about Mary Kemp’s cook­ery theatres, demon­stra­tions and more recipes at marykemp.net

‘Home­made straw­berry jam is won­der­ful, though it can be one of the most tem­per­a­men­tal jams to make’

ABOVE: Rasp­berry jam is the eas­i­est to make, says Mary

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