Jammin’

One of my fondest memories is of my mother and grandmother creating organised chaos in the kitchen preserving fruit or making jam. And of my grandmothers homemade jam smothered on toast the morning after a ‘sleepover at Nana’s’.

I’ve wanted to try my hand at making jam for ages; but would start reading up on it,  and upon seeing words like ‘sterilisation’ and ‘pectin’ I’d promptly put the idea back in the ‘to do, but not right now’ basket.

But when I heard one of my friends was taking her kids out to a Pick your own raspberry farm the idea took hold and wouldn’t let go. And when Clare arrived at our Wednesday evening Stitch ‘n’ Bitch with half a kilo of perfect raspberries, my Thursday agenda was set.

I was jammin’!

I wanted to make raspberry, apple and vanilla jam but I didn’t want to use pectin. So I researched for a couple of hours on the interwebs looking for recipes but could only find them containing pectin. At this point I decided to get adventurous and make my own!

So I grabbed my handy Commonsense Cookery Book. This cooking bible is an updated and modified version of the book my mother used at school for her Domestic Science class. It explains to do everything from how make scones, to how to dress meat and a whole section on chutneys and jams! Compiled by the Home Economics Institute of Australia, it’s been around for generations.

I took a strawberry jam recipe and adapted it to suit my tastes. It turns out I could have used less sugar as I was using apples. Apple contain a high level of pectin (the stuff that makes the jam set). So in future versions I may take the sugar ratio down a bit. My Husband has given me the “This tastes just like Mama (his grandmother) used to make. Yum!” seal of approval; I’m very happy with the result!

But before I could get cooking my jam I needed to sterilise my jars. To do this I pre-heat my oven to 150 degrees celsius and put my jars in a large pot of cold water with enough water to cover them by 3 cm. I put the pot on a high heat and brought the water up to a boil. I then turned the heat down to a gentle boil for 10 minutes. Then taking them out (using tongs) and put the jars on a tea towel upside down for a few minutes so that all the water drained out/ evaporates.

Then whilst I was cooking the jam, I put the jars into the oven on a folded tea towel and left them for about 15 minutes until I was ready to bottle my jam.

Apple, Raspberry and Vanilla Jam - Ingredients
  • 450 grams of washed raspberries with the stems removed. I may have eaten a few before I got to cooking….
  • 450 grams of peeled, cored and chopped golden apples
  • 900 grams of white caster sugar
  • 35 ml of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut in half and with the seeds scraped out 
Method
  • On a separate oven shelf to the one I was sterilising my jars on. I placed a large oven proof tray containing my sugar. Warm sugar dissolves easier meaning your jam is made quicker. This means that your jam tastes fresher and tastier!
  • I placed the chopped apple, lemon juice and vanilla bean with the seeds scraped out into a large stainless steel pot. Cooking over a medium/ high heat until the apples were about the consistency of apple pie apple (keeping their shape but fairly soft) (about 5 minutes)
  • To this I then added the raspberries and the vanilla seeds. Bringing the fruit mixture to a boil whilst mashing it with a potato masher. I left pieces of apple in my jam as I like the ‘homemade look’ but you could purée your apple before you add the raspberry if you want a completely smooth jam
  • I bought the jam to a rolling boil (a state of continuous rapid boiling that does not stop or slow when stirred) for about 8 to 10 minutes. Or until your jam starts to ‘jell’. You test this by putting a little jam on a plate you’ve had in the freezer for an hour. After a minute, if you push the jam with your finger and it gets wrinkles, your jam is ready! If it doesn’t wrinkle or thicken, you need to cook your jam a bit longer.
  • At this point you might find some ‘scum’ on the top of your jam. If you want a nice clear jam, skim it off the top with a slotted spoon and discard it.
  • Taking the jam off the heat and carefully removing my jars from the oven I used a small ladle to put my jam into the now very hot jars. Leaving the lids open for about 10 minutes and then sealing them shut to cool completely.

Voila! This is the finished result. A thick sweet and delicious jam just begging for a batch of scones and some thick cream!

I’ve now got to come up with some pretty labels. And the jam bug has bitten. I can’t wait to try again! Though maybe with a chutney? My Husband loves green tomato chutney!

There are just a few things to remember when making jam.

Using fruit in season is the best way to get a delicious jam. And use good quality fruit!

Never put hot jam into a cold jar, or cold jam into a hot jar. They’re likely to shatter and can result in horrible burns. If you’ve underestimated the number of jars you need. Let the remainder of your jam cool down and either reheat it whilst you sterilise more jars, or put the cold jam into a unsterilised jar and eat it immediately.

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