It’s preserves season

And so far this year all kinds of jams and chutneys have flowed freely from my kitchen. My berry crop at home has only yielded of some sad looking raspberries so it was off to Wandin last weekend for some picking – so much fun and the berries were ridiculously juicy and sweet. Even better was the berries put aside for jamming – $2 a kilo anyone? So I’ve been busy. It’s a little hobby I have (and I certainly need more of those). People don’t tend to leave our house without at least one jar being pressed upon them.

My signature range of quince paste (perfect on hard cheese and a savoy) has been dealt a blow, however.

Shocked and very upset when my fruit dealer, S from old work, confessed under much duress that his wonderful quince tree has been rendered unproductive by some ill advised pruning. My quince source has gone! If anyone knows of any, even black market, please get in touch.

When I find myself in a right jam

My paternal grandmother was known for her raspberry jam, made from the abundant raspberries on their property. That jam meant we rarely bought store bought jam during my childhood – it was Granny’s homemade jam that we always had on toast, and it was to die for, runny, rich, and delicious.  Her son, my uncle, was rather keen on his preserve making as well, making chutneys and jams from the same produce (the small hobby veggie patch between his and Granny’s house). He called his jams ‘dodgy Rogie’s’ homemade jams. (Nothing was more apt.)

Before Christmas, M came home from work with a supermarket bag full of apricots. I sniffed at them. I’m not a big stone fruit fan. But then I thought, gosh, there are rather a lot of these. Could I maybe, you know, like, preserve them somehow?

To the internet for some research. I had made chutney before, (kilos of green tomatoes that could only be made into quite delicious chutney last summer) but jam – well, that felt like a whole another level. All this boiling and pectin stuff seemed slightly complex. But nothing like a challenge! And, I decided firmly, I would follow the recipe for once. Just to see what happened.

I went into the study looking for stash of ex pasta and curry jars BBF summarily evicted from the kitchen several months ago, saying he had had enough of my bloody chutney jars taking up valuable shelf real estate. Thereupon I found many jars just waiting to have some sort of preserves inserted into them.

Tentatively, I put the jars into the dishwasher to sterilise them, carefully removed the stones and washed the apricots, put them on to boil with some water, later adding some sugar and lemon, anxiously following the instructions to the letter as the ingredients reached what jam makers call a ‘rolling boil’. After quite a time stirring and observing the texture turn from syrup into something more solid, I thought it might be ‘time’. To test the setting-ey-ness of the mixture, I spooned some out onto a cold plate and tested the texture.

It was setting! Wow! This works. I then poured them into jars and only burnt my hand once. BBF came in and tasted my newly made apricot jam, saying ‘hmm. Rather tasty’ which constitutes high praise.

The lids obediently sealed the jars, and viola, I had four jars of apricot jam. Edible jam!

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Since then, jam production has escalated. Appealing to social media, I was donated 6k of mushy nectarines, which I turned into four jars of jam and four jars of tangy chutney. Cumquats arrived courtesy of our friends in the Gully (note to self: don’t google ‘cumquat’ from office network NSFW, apparently.) I then spent some time in the Yarra Valley this weekend just passed, gathering thousands of delicious berries for my enterprise. So we now have blueberry, strawberry and mixed berry preserves.  Reviews have been wholly positive. Next up will be raspberries: the Yarra Valley is currently ‘in between picks’.  I have been offered money for jam (lol), but have so far refused – I will accept fruit and jars and maybe a bag of sugar – but payment is not necessary. It seems I have taken the jam torch of the whanau and run with it. I think Granny would have approved….

Am getting slightly obsessed, am also running out of jars. And oddly, I don’t actually eat that much jam.