Foraging for Jam

On Monday, largely because the weather did not appear to be getting any better, we decided to make the most of grey skies over Leamington and go foraging. Within the foraging community there is an unwritten code of secrecy regarding foraging spots; what with the web being a rather chatty place a foraging spot can quickly become bare, trampled undergrowth if the internet crowd get hold of it. Honestly, the internet should be ashamed of itself. With this in mind I can now safely tell you that we DID NOT aim for local foraging horn of plenty, the golf course, to harvest the jam that grows plentifully on trees and at this time of year and is ripening up very nicely right now.

The weather, as mentioned before, was trying to make July seem like a waste of effort, but there were still a whole crowd of staunch citizens walking dogs or each other around the edge of the course. They all took it in turns to give us confused and occasionally disproving looks, presumably because we were probably-doing-something-illegal or should-really-know-better. We smiled cheerily, and would have shaken plums onto them as they walked beneath the laden boughs, had it not been such a terrible waste and we not been quite so chicken. Instead I will abstain from dedicating this post to them, and instead write it for my very good friend and jam-lover R, for after only a few hours of overcast fun, we had 4 kilos of plums and enough baffled stares to last me for weeks. We then had to carry these the 2.69 miles back home again (not that anyone was counting), to make into a blog post.

The following day we made jam. I didn’t actually help, so there is something of the royal, 3rd person “we” in all that follows, but I did eat lots both during and after the process, so I’m fairly sure that counts.

Damson and Mirabelle Jam
Not just any old plums, it turns out, after a consultation with the Oracle of Gardening Truths (Barny’s Mum)

You will need:
2kg Jam sugar
2.5kg Damsons and Mirabelles (although the recipe worked fine while we still thought they were just plums)
850ml Water
The juice of 1 lemon
2 apples (chopped a bit)

Equipment-wise you will need
-The biggest saucepan you can find
-boiled muslin cloth (or a sieve and a lot of patience)
-sterilising tablets (can be found in the baby isle)
-glass jars (we needed about 7x250ml)

Rinse the fruit to remove any remaining critters. You can skip this step if you did not requisition fruit from the great outdoors, but we have included it here largely because of the nice picture above. Pop all your plums, lemon juice and apples in a pan, douse with water and boil gently for about half an hour until the fruit starts to go soft. In the mean time scrub out your glass jars, removing all the labels and putting the lids, once clean, into a bowl with water and sterilising tablets. Take a few side plates (3-4) and pop them in the freezer.

Lay the muslin over a large bowl and pour the boiled fruit mush in, then gather up the edge of the muslin, lift the fruit in the air and dangle elegantly over the bowl. Resist the temptation to poke and squeeze this exciting new addition to kitchen, and leave to drip for at least 2 hours or overnight if you can. We left ours for 2 hours, it turned out excellently, but one can apparently improve on that with time. Return juice to the big pan you used before, and compost the contents of the muslin. Preheat the oven to 100°C (that’s 212 in the 1950s) and rinse your lids ready for action.

Add the sugar to your already rather lovely brew, give it a quick stir and boil the living daylights out of it. Pop all of your glass jars in the oven for 20 minutes to sterilise them while you watch the raging jam inferno, and keeping an eye out for thickening after the first half hour. The thickening time will vary depending on your cooker and the sugar content of the fruit, so to gauge when your jam is set grab one of your pre-frozen plates and drop a blob of jam on it. Give the blob a poke, and if skin forms and crinkles, your jam is ready. More plates mean more tries, so you may regret only having 3-4 in the freezer at this stage. If you wish to complain please send your letters to the usual address, clearly marked for the attention of Barny.

With the jam at setting point whip your jars out of the oven, decant your jam into said jars and screw on lids. If you ever wondered how they made jars pop when you first open then, be prepared to be seriously amazed in about half an hour’s time.

Once cool serve with crumpets or, if you have the misfortune of not liking crumpets, give your jam to someone who does.

About Jabberwocky Soliloquy

The Jabberwocky drifts through space, collecting the most tasty things to eat. It brings them home and cooks them, humming about deliberate omissions and fortifying colours. As with all things it is, or should be, just happy to be here.
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13 Responses to Foraging for Jam

  1. Great post thanks for sharing. Feel free to check out the recipe I posted also.

  2. galer95 says:

    Jam jam jam jam, jam jam jam jam! 🙂 xxx

  3. Possibly one of my favourite blogs yet … I’m sending this out to some folk I know!!

  4. Fran says:

    I have been wandering around Leamignton Spa and see an awful lot of berries (blackberrys etc) on bushes… Are they sprayed by the council or anything or do you reckon safe to collect…

    • The dear Council do spray, but should only spray near ground level along paths (and there should be signs up if they are in the process of doing it). I’d avoid the ones around dog-pee-level and on main roads. The canal and Newbold Comyn are both great places for them. Blackberries have got to be the worlds best free food!

  5. I live up in Lillington and been taking blackberries from the local back lanes/footpaths – though the best ones i’ve found were on my way to Warwick yesterday so far – but gave those away as part of a raffle prize at a local Slimming World group that I attend (so someone got lots of nice, tasty, as nature intended fruit – whilst i still have about half of the kilo i picked on Saturday in the freezer for adding to breakfasts and deserts).

    But I’m very keen to learn how/where to find other local fruits/edibles – is there anyone out there who can help? I want to add the variety that nature’s larder offers as well as saving a (more then a) few pennies – as you can imagine being on a healthy food plan – my fruit/veg costs are high (particularly with my dislike of buying said items from the large supermarkets where i can avoid it).

    • If you have the room then growing your own is probably my favourite method (honestly, flowers? Half of them you can’t even eat…). We grow chillies, tomatoes, courgettes and herbs on the patio, what with the garden being in a bit of a state at the moment. I don’t profess any knowledge in magic gardening ability, but these ones seem to be hard to get wrong. Also I’m making a mental note of fruit tress now that will be in season later (apples, pears and some of the later plum varieties) to come back to later before too much of the tree-based goodness gets plundered by our fellow foragers. Elderberries will be in season soon as well, not so good for the diet, but they do make some bang up home-brew.

      • Alas – left it too late to grow anything outside this year by the time I started to get my patio sorted (the garden was (until a few days ago) in a bit of a state and needs much more work) – always have intended to try and grow my own but the hours I was working meant weekends catching up on everything else. Not a problem now, but still eager to help reduce some of my costs if i can by using wild plants and the like – if i knew what was/wasn’t edible.

        Planning on getting one of the identification guides at the weekend to help but local knowledge would be so much better. I wouldn’t know the difference between a plum. a damson, or a sloe if they were labelled – whilst also knowing (from walking around) that there’s plenty of fruit trees out there ready to take my little share from – if (as i say) i kneww what i was doing..

      • To be perfectly honest we identify foods by feeding them to Barny, and if he doesn’t know we ask his mum, who is gardening genius. I wouldn’t recommend the taste-first-worry-about-consequences-afterwards method to anyone of course, because that would be terribly irresponsible, so a book is almost certainly the best way forward. Unless there’s an app for that… oh, I just checked, and there is. Good grief.

  6. Maxine says:

    The jam is sooooooo good. And the elderberry wine! Thanks again for an amazing tasting evening and yummy goodies to take home 🙂

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