Foraged Blackberry Jam (v)

According to one of the contestants on the Great British Bake Off, young people have forgotten skills like jam making . Yeah, I can’t stand him either, but for lots of other reasons too. Anyway. It’s not true. I have been making jam, and chutney, and jelly, for years. So to you. Jam making is not hard and does not involve any particular skills. You just need to know the right balance of sugar to fruit and whether or not you need to add more pectin. And you must must must sterilise your jars properly if you want to store your jam for a wee while. This jam was made from foraged blackberries from Baildon common. We were lucky enough to get a kilo in one visit, but the fruit freezes well if you can’t pick that much before getting fed up being pricked by prickles or stung by brambles…

For 8 mini (225g) jars you need
1kg blackberries
1kg sugar. Any sugar is fine but preserving sugar is easier to melt and jam sugar already contains additional pectin
juice 1 lemon if not using jam sugar
Wax discs to seal the jam

Start by placing a saucer or small plate in the freezer. We will need it later.

Sterilise your jam jars, lids and any other utensils you will use to put the jam from the pan into jars (e.g. ladle etc). Do this by either putting in a hot dishwasher cycle or by washing in hot soapy water, rinsing and placing in the oven at 75 degrees for 10 mins. Make sure everything is still warm before you bottle the jam.

Place the fruit and sugar and lemon in a large, heavy based pan. A preserving pan is ideal but if you only plan on making one batch of jam don’t bother with buying one, a normal pan is fine. Slowly (this being the operative word) melt the sugar. As you heat the fruit will start to break down releasing juice which will mingle with the sugar and aid the process. Don’t rush this bit, it should take about 15-30 mins. Once the sugar has fully melted and there are no sugar crystals left, bring to the boil.

Boil rapidly for 5 mins and then start to test for a soft set. To do this, take your plate from the freezer, remove the jam from the heat, and place a small dollop on the cold plate. If after 30 seconds you can draw a line through it with your fingernail and it doesn’t immediately get filled with liquid the jam is ready. If not, reboil for a further minute and keep testing until you reach soft set.

I like my jam smooth so I blitz with a stick blender before bottling. Transfer the jam to the sterilised jars and seal with a wax disc. Loosely place the lids on top, and leave to cool before tightening. Don’t put labels on until the jam jars are cold or they will fall off! Leave in a cool, darkish place and enjoy in deepest winter.

Redcurrant Jelly

I have never made jelly before. Well, not the type you bottle and keep that is. I have a jelly bag, purchased some time ago and then lost in the loft! But the decluttering for the move found it, and our red currant bushes have gone into overdrive this year so we attempted our first ever batch of red currant jelly a la River Cottage.

For 2 (yes TWO!!) small jars you need:
800g redcurrants
400ml water

Pick over the redcurrants and wash them. Place in a pan with the water and slowly bring to the boil. Simmer for about 45 mins till the juices have run out and then strain through a jelly bag for about 3-4 hours. Reboil the currants with another 400ml water and repeat the straining.

For every 600ml juice, add 450g preserving sugar. Place the strained juice in a preserving pan and bring to the boil. Add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Once it’s all dissolved boil RAPIDLY for about 8 mins and then pour into sterilised jars. Weep that you only managed to get 2 and a bit jars worth of jelly from all that effort…

Strawberry Jam

Memories of summer this one. And a reminder that the last jar of homegrown, homemade jam needs to be eaten. I don’t think anything can replace the deep joy of eating a jar of runny (it has to be french style and runny imho) homemade strawberry jam made with homegrown strawberries. A true memory of the summer.

For about 4 1/2 jars you need:
1 kg jam sugar
juice 1 lemon
2 kg strawberries

Begin by mascerating the strawberries in the juice and sugar. Place everything in a preserving pan and leave, overnight, for the juices to flow. The next day heat very gently till all the sugar has dissolved. Once this has happened bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 5 mins. Test for the set (I keep saucers in the freezer and bring one our for each test. Turn off the heat and place a small amount of jam on the cold saucer. Leave for 30 seconds and then run the back of a spoon through it. If a skin forms and there’s a clear trail it’s ready to jar. If not, boil again for another few mins and keep testing for the set). Pour into sterilised jars and leave to cool. Try not to eat all the jars on the same day! Truly lovely with homemade scones and clotted cream. Even when it’s freezing outside and pouring with rain, this is a little bit of summer on a plate 🙂