served with Black grape and roasted walnut yoghurt & olive oil bread
And there I thought this was going to be the penultimate jam. Hmm, nectarines and black grapes, especially as the latter are still in stock, have to be tried and tested – and tasted. The reason for mentioning the black grapes is partly to do with the ‘quick’ bread shown within photos, as I’m not going with the recipe for it as yet. As I need to sub the black grapes (only really suitable for cooking with), that I probably won’t be able to buy this time next week as no doubt they’ll be out of season, with large frozen blueberries instead. Besides, the grapes were a little too heavy. And, regardless of how sensational the crumb turned out, when the bread is sliced into the grapes have a bad habit of disappearing when the slice is turned over. As this bread is for toasting lightly it’s annoying trying to reach sliced grapes that have escaped into the depths of my oven. Okay, a baking sheet or tray could be used whilst toasting them under the oven grill. I’m not that organised. Duh, there goes another one, being more appropriate. Which leaves a slice of toast that resembles Emmental cheese. In turn leaving pools of this delicious jam on my plate – that’s if I remember to use one :)
As for the jam itself this was purposely cooked to achieve a soft set this time around, as is noticeable within the photo directly above. There was a reason why I had wanted a soft set in the first place, and that was to do with possibly making jam tarts as I felt those could be quite a lot of fun. Until I realised just how much of this precious jam I was going to need. So, that idea was scrapped in favour of my previous post, mini apple pies. As I’m cooking more and more jam it’s difficult not to notice various quirks, including cooking large plums that don’t seem to keep their shape. If the fruit are firm then they do need to be poached until soft to the palate, prior to adding copious amounts of sugar. Most fruit, it seems, won’t lose their shape much further, even though they are effectively boiled with sugar. Excepting for these large plums that I’ve used before for my Songold yellow plum jam. Purely because the plums disintegrate into an almost jelly type consistency I decided to couple them with pears, knowing the latter wouldn’t lose their shape quite so much. Nice contrasts, not only in colour but texture. Which is why I thought this jam would be especially suitable for grown-up jam tarts.
And I was right. This jam looks great. It’s not exactly see-through. More opaque if anything. But it’s so nice to find sizeable chunks of the pears that, when the jam slips off them slightly, reveals their whitish colour. Which happens naturally on a slice of toast. Almost. As is the case in the photo directly below. Sort of. Shame that particular grape out front didn’t disappear. Anyway, this jam was cooked using even less than a ratio of 2:1 of fruit to sugar. And I still managed to get the set I was after. Okay, that took a while. Two boiling sessions of thirty minutes each, with only a break in between of necessary food shopping. How exciting does my life get…
Yet it shows two things: not all jams have to be made with a ratio of 1:1 of fruit to sugar. And it’s possible to boil jam, take off heat if necessary and continue as if nothing had happened – ahem, not unlike my life – and still end up with a perfect set. And if you don’t believe me about using less sugar for your jams then do have a look at Kenley’s fabulous GREEN DOOR HOSPITALITY‘s post, which only helps to confirm that it’s not only possible but you can end up with a far tastier and healthier jam.
Yield: about 900g or 1.98 pounds
- 580g (1.279 pounds) x prepared weight firm Fortune plums, washed, cut into quarters, stone removed and discarded, quarters cut into chunks
- 1 x tablespoon cold water (more may be needed)
- 500g (1.102 pounds) x prepared weight firm Conference pears, washed, cut into quarters, core removed and discarded, quarters cut into chunks
- 1½ x ripe lemons (OR 3½ tablespoons lemon juice), juiced through a sieve
- 400g (14.11 oz) x granulated sugar OR use a ratio of 2:1 of fruit to sugar
Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.
- Note: If the fruit is firm then follow this step. If fruit is ripe then start at next instruction. Put the prepared fruit and the lemon juice into a large saucepan with a lid on electric heat No 2 (out of 6) initially to sweat or to help the fruit to release their juices. This should only take about 5 – 10 minutes, depending on how big the chunks are. The fruit by this stage should be soft enough to eat, especially if firm or slightly unripe fruit have been used.
- Up the heat to No 4 and add the sugar. Stir thoroughly to combine. Once the sugar has melted completely, and before boiling, taste at this point for any needed extra sugar.
- Bring mixture to a boil, stirring gently and occasionally at this stage. Once boiling stir much more frequently. I ended up boiling this for about 30 minutes before there were any real signs of the jam thickening. That’s when I took it off heat and went food shopping. Otherwise do not leave unattended at any time. And remember that boiling sugar is extremely hot so use t-towels to hold the saucepan, protecting that hand, and use a wooden spoon to stir with a long handle – the longer the better! As the jam can and will spit and splutter. Better to be safe when making jam as it will scald. Anyway, I then put the jam back on heat No 4 and stirred continuously until it was boiling again. Important to do so as otherwise the boiling sugar could catch on base of pan which could taste burnt. Once boiling again stir frequently until jam thickens enough to do the first test.
- Place a clean saucer in the fridge.
- Put oven on to 180°C or 356°F (which will take about 10 minutes) and place clean glass jars upside down in the oven to sterilise them. Once oven temperature has reached that mark switch it off but leave the jars inside with the door still closed.
- Take jam off heat and carefully add a dessertspoonful to the cold saucer. Allow a couple of minutes for the jam to cool before pushing a finger into the jam. If it starts to crinkle it’s beginning to set. If in doubt place the saucer back in the fridge for 5 minutes and check again. I then continued to boil the jam for a further 10 minutes before testing again.
- If there is a lot of scum rising to the surface at any time do skim that off and discard. So far, with both jams, this hasn’t happened.
- When setting point has been reached take jam off heat and allow to settle for 10 minutes. At this point open the oven door and allow the jam jars to cool sufficiently, as they should still be hot but not overly so. When ready to pour the jam into the jars (that do need to be hot as otherwise they will crack) either ladle or spoon the jam in. With this particular jam it poured quite nicely as there were very few chunks left. Don’t rush this stage as there shouldn’t be any air bubbles. Pour some, tap the jar and pour in more. I didn’t leave much of a gap in mine, pouring jam up to the curve that leads to the grooves that hold the lid in place. Once happy with the jam in the jars place the lids on securely, tightening them again when the jam has cooled slightly.
Notes (as with all my jams I’m giving tips that I found helpful to begin with):
- Here are two links for sites that I read before making jam for the first time. Both are well written and informative: 10 Tips for Jam, Jelly and Marmalade Making & Jam Session.
- My advice is to wear long clothing, as in a long sleeved top and trousers. When the jam is boiling it can and will spark and spit. Have to hand clean t-towels and or an oven mitt/glove and cover your hands if anywhere near the jam as jam making is a hot process and can scald. As for having kids and pets in the kitchen at the same time I would strongly advise against it.
- The only piece of equipment I’ve since bought for jam making is a 45cm or 18 in wooden spoon. That way there’s far less chance of the jam spluttering and burning my hand.
- It seems that it’s best to cut out all blemishes and any parts of the fruit that have signs of damage, discarding those.
- Add water sparingly to the prepared fruit in the saucepan initially, as extra water can always be added if necessary.
- (Not applicable to this jam) Cover pan with a lid as this will help the fruit to release their juices. It’ll take about 10 – 15 minutes to do this, according to the fruit used.
- (Not applicable to this jam) Only start heating the fruit at a lowish temperature. I used electric No 2 (out of 6).
- Add lemon juice through a sieve and stir through before adding sugar. Once the sugar has been added and stirred through is the time to taste for any extra needed sugar. If spices have been used then taste for any needed extra spices at this stage as well. At no point taste jam whilst cooking it during the boiling stage!
- (Not applicable to this jam) Jam will darken considerably during the boiling stage. I’ve noticed that during this stage the sound of the jam will be of a vigorous boil, then suddenly it’ll go quieter. When this happens stir through, often. When jam starts to thicken is when it really needs to be stirred continuously – not with any force, just stir through slowly and gently as this will help to prevent any scorching. Do not leave the jam boiling at any stage! Take off heat and set on a cold plate, as in electric plate. Doing this and putting it back on heat doesn’t seem to make any difference to the end result.
- Put oven on to heat the jam jars. I set my oven to 180°C (356°F), and once it reached this temperature I simply switched the oven off and kept the door closed until the settling stage (see below).
- During the boiling stage place a clean saucer in the fridge.
- Do take the jam off heat and test when it looks like it’s thickening enough. Test by adding a small spoonful to the cold saucer. If it crinkles (allowing enough time for the jam to cool slightly) when pushed with your finger it’s beginning to set. Do place it in the fridge for 5 minutes and push it again. If it’s still too runny put the jam back on heat and continue to boil for another 5 minutes before testing again. At this point stir jam continuously.
- The jam, when the setting point wanted has been reached, needs to settle for about 10 minutes off heat before pouring it into the jars, that need to be hot. Having said that the jars shouldn’t be boiling hot so make sure the oven door is open wide, after taking the jam off heat, to allow the jars to cool slightly. Once jam has been bottled the lids should be put on immediately. And tighten lids again when jam has started to cool down.
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