Harvesting is underway, savour the glut!
Our fruit bushes are bursting with fruit, but there is a only a certain amount of gooseberries that our family can eat, and some berries are not at all palatable so what are we going to do with all those fruits? The old, tried and tested way of fruit preservation is jam making. I was in a friend’s garden last week and I spotted a blackcurrant bush full of fruit – I asked him what he intends doing with the fruit- he answered ‘nothing’, I told him I will harvest his fruits and make him some jam. The next morning I put a small pot of jam on his doorstep. – He rang me up and said , “How did you manage to make it so quick, my mother used to spend hours pouring, mixing, and testing , when did you have the time?” The answer is – if you make the jam with the right amounts, there is no need to test and pour and mix! Many jam makers end up producing a pot full of a caramel mass instead of jam, because they use guesswork as to how much sugar to use, or they add the sugar at the wrong time !
Let me take you through a few simple steps of never fail jam making.
Easy Jam Making
Jam is a solidified mass of sugar – the juices of the fruit change the dissolved sugar into a solid mass. The two main components of the fruit in relation to jam making are acid and pectin. Some fruits have a short supply of these characteristics and therefore one must add lemon juice or special sugar making jam, but we will concentrate this week on easy jam making; fruits which can easily be made into jam with just 2 everyday ingredients – water and sugar, because these fruits have a good balance of acid and pectin. Follow the instructions, especially making sure to keep to the exact amounts stated here and you jam will not fail, without the need to use jam setting tests and messy experiments.
Choose from the following list of fruits for easy jam making:
Gooseberry, Blackcurrants, Redcurrants, Whitecurrants, Raspberries
Blackcurrants : Fruit :1kg Water : 750ml Sugar : 1.5kg
Gooseberry : Fruit :1kg Water : 480ml Sugar : 1.5kg
Red or Whitecurrants: Fruit :1kg Water : 115ml Sugar : 0.575g
Raspberry : Fruit :1kg NO WATER Sugar : 1.2kg
- Remove the stalks but only wash the fruit if it’s really essential.
- Place the fruit in a pan. Tip -it is preferable to use a large pan with the mixture not filling higher than 5 or 6 cm than to fill a small pan to the top!
- Pour the exact amount of water listed, into the pan and bring to the boil.
- Cover the pot, turn down the heat, and leave to simmer for about half an hour, this will soften the fruit. If you prefer fruit pieces in your jam (a conserve), leave them as they are; otherwise, mash the mixture occasionally. We use a potato masher as illustrated as this mashes the fruit equally, but any utensil can be used.
- Now add the sugar. As you add the sugar keep stirring the mixture to guarantee total dispersal of the sugar and to ensure that it will dissolve rapidly.
- Bring to the boil with the lid off, take care that it should not boil over. After about 5 to 10 minutes of rapid boiling your jam is ready.
- Remember, at this stage the mixture does not need to be thick- it will thicken as it cools down.
- Beware! Do not touch the mixture, boiling jam is very, very hot, much hotter than boiled water.
Pour the jam into clean pots and leave to stand. After a couple of hours put it into the refrigerator.
Leave overnight and enjoy it on your toast with your breakfast the next morning.
Tip – Wash the pan and the mixing utensil immediately with boiling hot water, otherwise you will be left with sticky jam pans that are very difficult to clean.
Whilst working in the garden or allotment our fingers and hands often get scratched and grazed, even if you are not attacking a large bramble bush but just picking a rose or a few gooseberries, more likely than not, your hands will end up with some damage.
A common healing plant is the Aloe Vera plant, as you break open a leaf , a thick juice exudes from the plant which if placed on the wounded area it is said to work as an antiseptic for all types of cuts and grazes. As it is a type of cacti I always assumed that it was a plant that needs a warm climate. However, last year I mistakenly left an aloe vera plant outside, right through the winter- it was quite near the house and sheltered from heavy rain. The leaves turned a bit brown but new growth came rapidly through in the spring and it is still growing strong – some plants enjoy a bit of neglect!
I happen to notice on the plant stand in IKEA that they were selling Aloe Vera plants for just £2.50! Its a cheap price for an everlasting supply of antiseptic cream and much cheaper in the long run than a tube of Savlon!
Have an enjoyable gardening week!
Next week : Going on holiday? Don’t come back to a dried up desert!