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.
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.