Now, you may be trying to stay as far from the stove as possible. Your cooking horizons may have shrunk to slicing things up for sandwiches, maybe stretching to cutting up fruit if eating it whole is impossible. You may even be fanning yourself with a sheaf of shockingly high electricity bills right now, a glass of iced something or other by your side. And here I am wanting you to get out your biggest pot and deliberately stand over a fruity sauna to make jam. Yes, it’s that time of year. Time to get jamming.
It does seem a particularly cruel quirk of Nature to have nearly every good thing available to us in the one season, the season when we want to be lazy, hazy and good for nothing. Because for many jam, jelly, chutney, cordial and sauce makers it’s practically a full time job, not only gathering all the produce but preparing and potting it up.
But isn’t it about the most worthwhile task of the growing year? Seeing a row or two of gleaming bottles, labeled and proud on their shelf, is a fitting reward for all of that – not to put too fine a point on it – sweaty chopping, stirring and bottling. And of course the best part is dipping into your homemade jam or sauce come November time, when the frenzy of summer growth, with its heady smells, tastes and colours, is a fuzzy edged memory.
Today’s very simple jam recipe is my favourite. I didn’t know about blackcurrants until I moved to the UK and, I must say, as a fruit on its own it’s not my favourite (a fantastic British way of saying I don’t like it). But in a jam, oh wowee, it is unsurpassable. I will happily shlep out to the pick-your-own fields, stooping as God did not intend us to do, all to get a gluttonously filled basket of these dainty but flavoursome berries. Or, let the supermarket do the choosing for me.
As much as I love straight up blackcurrant jam, I like it all the more made with the rather more common raspberry. For me, these two together are more than the sum of their parts. Even writing about this jam makes me want to get a spoon and eat some straight from the jar. But I will hold back. I’ve been told off too many times by Mr A about eating at the keyboard, and as I am very messy I am sure to leave a tell tale amethyst-coloured blob where a letter might be.
For those of you in more southerly latitudes currant season may have already passed. If so you should be on to blackberries, in which case feel free to substitute the currants for them, but I would add the juice and ‘shell’ of half a lemon (fish it out later) and use preserving sugar too. This accounts for the much lower pectin and acid content (which also affects set). It won’t have the sharpness of the currants but blackberries are always worth preserving and do make delicious jam and jelly in their own right, of course.
If you make blackcurrant and raspberry jam, do hold back a jar for next post’s recipe. I will be bringing you the simplest, tastiest little two-bite tarts you can imagine. Gluten-free too. Until next time, get picking! Or shopping!
Are you doing any end-of-summer preserving? What things are abundant around you that you plan to ‘put up’ for eating later? Do you have any links to your own or another favourite preserve recipe? If they aren’t a family secret, please send them in to share with us!