Every so often I get obsessed by something and decide to immerse myself in whatever it is. At the moment, it’s jam – which is why readers of this blog can be forgiven for wondering why gardening hasn’t been mentioned at all for the last five posts or so.
Anyway, seeing as my jams are quite successful and enjoyed enormously by both myself and Mr Beans, I decided to spend yesterday afternoon making marmalade. Turned out great! Although it took a total of nearly five hours – if you’re cash-rich and time-poor, then making marmalade probably isn’t for you lol.
As usual, I read several recipes and then halved the amount of sugar. So here goes:
3 lb oranges/grapefruit (one grapefruit, rest of weight made up by the oranges)
Juice of two lemons
3 lb white sugar
4 – 4.5 pints water
Wash the fruit. Cut lemons in half, squeeze the juice out into the pan and discard the peel, but save the membrane/pips. Cut the oranges and grapefruit. Squeeze the juice out, add to pan and again, save the membrane/pips. Chop the orange and grapefruit peel into strips, and add to the pan.
Tie the membrane/pips from the oranges, grapefruit and lemons into a muslin bag. Add to the pan. This part of the fruit contains a lot of pectin, which will help the marmalade to set.
Add the water to the pan as well. Your pan should contain:
Juice from the lemons, oranges and grapefruit
Chopped peel from the oranges and grapefruit
The muslin bag of membrane/pips
Simmer this little lot for two hours. It will reduce down, and the peel will go soft. About 20 minutes before the end, remove the muslin bag.
When the two hours is up, take the pan off the heat, and add the sugar. Stir to dissolve. Squeeze the contents of the muslin bag into the pan (this should have cooled down enough to touch. Actually, I ended up opening the bag and straining the contents through a sieve).
Return the pan to the heat, boiling vigorously with stirring, until the marmalade sets. This takes a looooong time, so don’t expect it to happen straight away. While the marmalade is boiling, skim any scum off the top.
Decant into sterlised jars, and pop on a bit of waxed or greaseproof paper before closing with a lid. This batch filled four jars, but two of the jars were bigger than normal.
The resulting marmalade had a lovely rich “thick cut” flavour – exactly what I was aiming for.
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The morello cherry jam being now a distant memory, I decided to have a go at making some more jam, after picking up a punnet of damson plums at my local greengrocer’s for £1. After they’d been destoned, they weighed 13 ounces. Together with 8 ounces of thawed out frozen blackberries from my foraged stash, I made jam using the following invented recipe:
21 ounces (1 lb 5 oz) of fruit
Juice of half a lemon
12 ounces of sugar.
Stew the plums with several tablespoons of water – enough to create a thick mass of stewed fruit, while ensuring that the plums don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. While the plums are heating up, tie the stones (which will probably have a lot of pulp sticking to them) into a muslin cloth. Place the “bag” of stones into the mixture.
When the plums are almost cooked, add the blackberries and simmer the mixture for another couple of minutes.
Take the pan off the heat, and remove the muslin bag. Put it to one side to cool. To the pan, add the sugar and the lemon juice. Stir thoroughly to dissolve the sugar. Put back on the heat and bring to a brisk boil, stirring continuously until the jam sets. Near the setting point, the muslin bag will be cool enough to allow you to squeeze the pulp into the pan.
With the quantities I used, it took about 15-20 minutes from the addition of the sugar to the setting point. I actually think that you’re better off making jam in moderate quantities as opposed to massive amounts, because the setting time is so much quicker if you’re making less (it took ages for the cherry jam to set, and I think it was because I was making a vast amount in one go).
One other thing: this jam tastes fantastic, but I would probably use a smaller quantity of blackberries in relation to plums next time – simply because I personally prefer the taste of plum jam to that of blackberry jam. Also, I’m not sure if the muslin bag/pulp thing made any difference. You could probably leave this bit out.