So yeah, jam! In fact, jam, jelly, and "cham." All of which has been made in the past week and a half and some of which is currently winging its way across the world to one lucky lady. I say lucky, I hope she feels like that because I am something of a novice when it comes to all this jam making malarkey, and there have been a few teething problems I can tell you.
But I think I've gotten the hang of it now, and am already plotting my next jam experiments. Be warned, you will be getting jams, jellies and chutneys for Christmas, oh yes! (I'm looking at you Mum!)
Anyway, I should probably start at the beginning, but I'm not going to, instead I am going to start somewhere nearer the end. Why? Because the photos are prettier and the outcome very tasty indeed. Then I shall work backwards to other delicious offerings, less pretty (but funny) photos and a discussion about the development of "cham" the preserve I think is going to be very fashionable indeed this winter. You heard it here first folks.
And so to here:
Epping Forest. Beautiful isn't it? N and I went last Sunday in a quest for fresh air, autumn sunshine and most importantly; brambles.
and as you can see, we found them! Brambles are just the name for wild blackberries, and apparently Epping is full of them. Or at least it would have been, if we'd gotten there earlier, but it seems that someone beat us to the wonderful idea, and so instead of tubs and tubs of them three hours produced a scant 480g.
Ta do! There you go, three hours work, stained fingers, scratched arms and a tupperware of brambles. Despite not getting the huge amounts we were hoping for, you couldn't argue with a nice box of purple jewel-like berries, all for free, and a whole load of exercise thrown in for good measure. It was a lovely afternoon and I can't wait to go back and explore some more.
What did I do with the berries? Why I made jam of course! Having had some problems in my earlier attempts (more about those later) I was slightly nervous about using the fruits from our hard labour in something I couldn't guarantee to get right. But N had confidence and we had apples, so apple and bramble jam it was. I heated the brambles with a little water until very soft, then passed them through a nylon sieve giving me a rich puree. I then added this to 450g of apples that had been softening with a little lemon juice in the preserving pan. Once they were mixed together I added the same weight in sugar as I had in fruit, dissolving it slowly and the bringing to a rolling boil to reach the setting point. Then I spooned it into hot jars and sealed. (I spooned rather than poured to get a good distribution of fruit in each jar). I then waited to see if I had managed to get a correct set.
I tested the jam this afternoon when we had toast for brunch, and I have to say it was delicious. A perfect ratio of berries to apple I think because neither flavour dominated, and every so often you got a chunk of apple that had soaked up the juice. N also gave it the thumbs up. Hurrah! I've finally got the hang of this, as that was the second preserve in a row that had worked correctly. I'm on the wagon now. Watch this space for more as I ain't getting off anytime soon, not while there are empty jars in the house!
Now to the reason for the jam obsession in the first place. I signed myself up for the Jammin Jelly exchange organised by Molly of Batter-splattered. It seemed like such a good idea at the time, getting involved the food blogging community and finally getting to share things with other people. Then disaster struck and I realised that it meant I actually had to make jam. Not any old jam, jam good enough to send to someone else, undoubtedly someone much better at making it than me. Oops! With no way to cut and run I had to bite the bullet and put my jam making apron on and set to it.
So first I attempted a gooseberry and greengage jelly. Except there wasn't enough liquid, so I had to give in and squeeze the muslin and make seedless/stoneless jam. This would have been fine, except I dramatically over-set it. ARGH! I'd been attempting to use the "test it on a cold plate" method, when I should have just trusted the thermometer. I tested and tested and got no set, gave in, bottled it and got, well, "cham." A cross between jam and fruit cheese. So solid it had to be spooned from the jar. The flavour however was lovely, so not a total disaster.
But I just wasn't convinced I could send it to someone as my contribution. So I tried again. This time with Apple ginger. It said set on the thermometer I swear, but I bottled it and it was like fruit in syrup. By this time I was so desperate I was in tears at the kitchen table. I kid you not, I care so much about jam now that it can induce crying. Poor N was very confused indeed, it all tasted fine to him and he couldn't see where the problem lay (I should add that he still hugged me better).
So we turn to attempt number three. Again, I wanted an unusual flavour and something a bit "English" as I was sending it across the world. So I decided to try the jelly again, this time with a more liquidy fruit. Blackberries. So I simmered the fruit with elderflower and then hung it in a muslin using my ingenius jelly-bag substitute:
Yes, you're right that is a guitar stand on my desk! A little unconventional I know, but it works. I strained overnight this time and got a good amount of liquid. I then added the same weight in sugar, some lemon juice and boiled until the thermometer said set and bottled it. I almost didn't dare check it, but it seemed that I got it right. Finally. Hurrah!
So, here are the two little jars that are off on an adventure round the world. I decided that the "cham" earned itself a place because it's flavour really is good, and it goes brilliantly with cheeses, and hopefully the set of the jelly will make up for the solidity of the cham. We shall see. I await the feedback with baited breath.
However, at least I now know I can make jam, and tomorrow will be off to the farmer's market in search of more wonderful things to preserve.