18 August 2010

Jamming Sessions


Over the Summer, I've been picking the patch of wild strawberries I started a couple of years ago, a bowl every other day pretty much. I put them in the freezer and ended up with just under 4 litres, leaving the last few to the fat wood pigeons that frequent our garden. By weight, this corresponded to 1.6 kg of wonderfully fragrant redness.

So the other day, I thawed them all in my pressure cooker (the biggest pot I have).

In preparation I'd purchased jam sugar, which is granulated sugar with pectin added to it. According to the instructions on the packet 1 kg of this sugar would be enough for 800 g of strawberries. I thought that would be well too much sugar, so decided to use a 1 kg packet for all my lovely wild strawberries.

The instructions also said only boil for 4 minutes, however that was nowhere near the jam setting point and I ended up boiling them for nearer 40 minutes. This was such a shame, as it pretty much killed them and all the fragrant flavour was completely lost and I ended up with a generic strawberry jam.

Additionally I made losses to the pot itself, a they'd burnt onto the bottom, well beyond caramelisation. It took two runs through the dishwasher and then finally manual scrubbing with a scourer to remove the black stuff off the pot.

Thus I ended up with 2 jars.

We had also a bumper crop from our three gooseberry bushes, that came with the house. I moved them a couple of years ago and put in a lot of manure. It turned out to have herbicide residue in it and the poor plants did struggle last year, but have come back with a vengeance this time. I picked the whole lot in one afternoon and ended up with 1.2 kg of these wonderful berries.

Into the freezer they went of course and I thawed them this morning. Before starting to cook them, I searched for pectin on the internet. I found a couple of web sites that sell it, however postage would have cost more than the pectin itself. So, I wandered down to the Co-op, which is nearest. They didn't anything in that direction, so on to Waitrose, who did! Yes, saved me the additional few hundred meters to go to Sainsbury's. I bought two packets, to be on the safe side.

Reading the instructions on the sachet, they were quite different from the instruction on the jam sugar. The whole thing seems a bit random. I warmed up the jars in the oven, on the slow cook setting. I'm not sure if that's strictly necessary with the types of jars I use, but if it sterilises them, that's good. Also on the whole I think reducing the amount of sugar is good, as well as not cooking the jam for too long, so adding extra pectin should help there.

Again, I reduced the amount of sugar massively - on the 1.2 kg of gooseberries, I used 500 g of the jam sugar and I added 1 sachet (8 g) of pectin powder too. It still required about 15 minutes of boiling before they reached the setting point. I put in the whole gooseberries, then kept stirring frequently to prevent anything burning to the pot. They all popped in the mean time and I strained them through a colander, so that seeds and fruit flesh came through, but the skins didn't. I got just under 2 jars of this jam, it's now cooling.

Earlier I also had a bumper crop from our 8 rhubarb nests and wasn't really sure what to do with them. I spotted a jar of plum jam that my Mum had given me, and thought why not rhubarb? Again with reduced amount of sugar (by a third this time though), I'd cut them in bite sized pieces and they went completely mushy in the cooking process. 2 jars + one small jar was the result from just over 1 kg. We've already eaten the small jar, it was delicious. Both on toast for breakfast, but I think it would work nicely with cheese. It still retained a bit of its sourness, so more of a grown-up jam.

And because of the drought all over the land, I've been watering my rhubarbs and they've re-sprouted fabulously and I'll be picking them tomorrow for a second round of jam.

I'm quite looking forward to trying them out properly so to speak.

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