Welcome to the second part of my ‘branching out’ series, where I explore crafts I’ve not tried before. Regular followers might be surprised to read about my exploits with boiling sugar given my clumsy tendencies, but the fact I am writing this and not in A&E is a promising sign! (Luck must have been on my side.)
Our neighbour very kindly gave us 2lb of plums from his allotment and suggested making jam. He had already made some and told me how, so when we went shopping I bought a bag of sugar and a lemon (he doesn’t believe in posh jam making sugar and just adds a squeeze of lemon!)
I began by stoning the plums, as although my neighbour had told me the stones would be skimmed off with the scum, my crippling dental phobia would not allow me to risk leaving stones in it. (My catastrophising brain went into overdrive imagining all of the potential tooth damage related scenarios!) I then weighed them and gently poached them in the pan (1980s Prestige pressure cooker base). This led to some very beautiful cooking smells as the plums began to break down.
Once they were slightly softened, I added an equal weight of sugar and stirred them. At this point I was not convinced and thought I had used too much sugar. After a short while, though, it came together and began to heat up and eventually boil. Once it had reached a rolling boil I turned it down to a more gentle bubbling (but not quite a simmer) and whipped out my fancy Lakeland jam making thermometer which we had purchased in one of our pre children moments of frivolous spending. This part seemed to take ages as it didn’t reach the right temperature for almost an hour. (Put it this way, Dave and the kids had abandoned their dream of jam on toast and gone to the allotment. I suspect that they also wanted to avoid seeing what damage I could do to myself with a pan of bubbling syrup!)
I Googled ways to check it was ready and the wrinkle test seemed to be prevalent. I, being impatient, tested too early and it wasn’t quite ready. It had reached the right temperature but needed longer to cook fully. I tried all sorts, including putting the plate in the freezer before the test. I even went to see the neighbour, who was out in the front garden, to check I was on the right lines. It was hard to maintain a constant temperature and I think I had over boiled it, but I did get a wrinkle (on the plate and on my forehead) eventually and poured it into the really hot jars. This was the dangerous part, in fact William declared that it looked like lava, which was not far off. (They returned from the allotment just in time to witness this!)
The jars had been sterilised whilst the jam cooked and altogether it made 4 jars. Later on that day we sampled the jam on some toast. It was delicious, though I suspect that it was overcooked as it tasted slightly caramelised (not at all unpleasant, though I don’t think I’d do it intentionally!) Since I made it, jam sandwiches have been the children’s lunch of choice, though I’ve been mean and not let them have it every day.
Whilst I don’t think I’ll be entering any competitions any time soon, I really enjoyed making jam and will definitely do it again. It wasn’t quite as dangerous or tricky as I thought; the main ingredient seems to be patience.
Have you ever made jam? What is your favourite? Do you have any tips?