This is my first foray into fruit jam, I’ve previously had a go at a savoury onion jam but had always feared the pectin and palava associated with them. I have vivid memories of my mum making huge batches of apricot and fig jam from our insanely productive fruit trees when I was a kid, it was a serious enterprise. The size of her jam pan was immense, it seemed to cover the entire stove top and she would stand there for what felt like hours, soaking and stirring and then canning her bounty. We lived on jam for the year afterwards, every morning a thick lashing of mum’s jam on a crumpet or freshly baked bread heralded the start of another school day and when we ran out we knew apricot season wasn’t far behind it. You’d think in all that time I would have learnt to make jam myself, maybe even experimented a little. You’d think so but no, not a chance, for while the memories of eating homemade jam are precious, what is perhaps more pervasive is the look on my mum’s face about halfway through the process – somewhere between agony and exhaustion. Such is the price of canning ones own produce, I suppose.
Some twenty years later and here I am, contemplating making jam. Certainly not on the scale as mum did but still a daunting premise nonetheless. As I was soon to realise, there is nothing to be afraid of. In fact there was something very soothing about stirring that pot of jam, watching it bubble and plonk as berries turned to goo, goo turned to jam; any worries in my world dissolved away as the simplicity and beauty of my creation gradually thickened and set.
The beauty of making your own jam is that you can experiment with flavours and control the amount of sweetness and therefore sugar you use. Yes it may be messy, yes it takes a lot longer than it does to hop in your car and grab a $3 jar from the store but it is yours, you made it.. from scratch, and it is indeed a most satisfying enterprise.
- 1 kilogram frozen blueberries (or fresh if they are in season)
- 3-4 large, juicy Meyer lemons - soaked overnight in water
- 1 cup jam setting sugar
- 1 cinnamon quill
- 4 jars and lids, washed and sterilised in boiling water
- In your largest pot, over a low flame, add the blueberries and cook gently until they defrost and start to release their juices - this took about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, zest and juice the lemons and add to the pot.
- Add the cinnamon quill and stir well.
- Once the mix has started bubbling add the sugar and stir well until everything is combined and turn up the heat to medium-high.
- Pop a small plate in the freezer (to be used later to test whether your jam has set).
- Bring jam to a solid boil, stirring every now and then.
- Once boiling, start stirring. Stir constantly and methodically, adjusting the heat if necessary.
- Gradually your jam will thicken - this can take some time.
- Keep stirring!
- When the jam reaches a syrup-like consistency remove from the heat and start testing.
- Grab the plate from the freezer and plop a half teaspoon of jam on it. Leave it for a few minutes and if the jam has formed a skin and stays put when you turn the plate upside down then it has set.
- If it has not, then return your pot to the heat and cook for another 5 minutes or so.
- Check again.
- Once complete ladle into hot, sterilised jars and seal.
- Optional (my mum never did this, but many recipe sites recommend it): Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
- Invert and leave to cool on a tea towel overnight.