Sunday, 6 January 2013

Jamming with Rita!

This is the time of year I absolutely love the best – not for the weather, but for the huge abundance of fruit, most particularly berry and stone fruit. I make jam every year.

My two best favourites are raspberry and strawberry jam. This seems to have been a bumper season for them too. Sometimes the season only lasts for a few weeks, and you don’t see many advertised for jamming.

Hence, the last few weeks have involved Rita out scavenging for fruit (plus sugar) then taking it home to make a cauldron of jam to squirrel away for winter.

At Rita’s house, over the course of each year, not one glass jar and lid gets thrown out. One by one, as they accumulate, they get washed thoroughly in the dishwasher, then stashed in the dedicated jar cupboard. If you’re a serious jam maker, you automatically do this constantly.

I store them with their lids on for two reasons: it keeps any possible dirt, grime, dust etc out of the now-clean jar, and if, when I take the lid off down the track (it might be 8 months later), the residual odour of whatever was previously contained therein hits me, then I know it needs a more thorough washing in hot, sudsy water, then a good rinse in clean hot water.

I also make a point of buying jars at Shiploads, or an equivalent store, over the course of the year - maybe 4 or 6 jars at a time, but you'll inevitably find that at this time of year when/if you get inspired to make jam, or preserves, you can't buy a jar for love or money! So it's best to stock up during the year.

Raspberry and/or strawberry jam are the quickest and easiest jams to make, ever. The berries themselves are small, so they break down fast, and blend with the sugar to make that luscious, viscous red nectar of the gods (for your toast) ever! Ten minutes tops is all it takes to make a vat of raspberry jam.

I scored two x one kilo packs of jam raspberries at today’s Farmers Market for $9 each. You can get them cheaper if you want to travel to Westerway, or further afield, but for convenience, that price suited me fine. Hill Street Grocers has been selling 1 kilo of jam strawberries from Granton for over a month. They come in at $5.99, which is also fine with me. Once again, I could get them cheaper if I went out in the country, or picked them myself, but that’s not feasible now, so I’m happy with the prices I paid.

In the middle of winter, I will love opening a jar of my ‘breath of summer’ fresh raspberry and strawberry jam!

I actually bought proper eating raspberries from Hill St Grocers last week, at the top end price of $7.99 for 250 gm, then jammed them! A shocking waste of money, but I wanted to make my jam at any cost.

Anyway – my old Huon country folklore tells me that for jam making, you use equal quantities of fruit and sugar and that’s it. Well, that is indeed it, if you’re making raspberry jam. For strawberry jam, as strawberries are more watery, and haven’t got enough pectin contained in the fruit, you need to buy a sachet of Fowlers Vacola JamSetta ($1.98 at Hill St, so probably will be cheaper at the supermarket), read the instructions, then ignore them and put twice as much as what they recommend into your strawberry and sugar mix (at the start)!

I did as they advised on the sachet last year, to the letter, and found my strawberry jam was, in fact, beautiful strawberry topping! This year I doubled the recommended amount, and it set perfectly!

The second old wives tale about jamming and preserving is the procedure of washing your jars then putting them in the oven to thoroughly sterilize them for an amount of time.

Many years ago, I simply couldn’t be bothered with all that palaver, so boiled my kettle, filled each jar to the brim with boiled boiling hot water (and the upturned lids as well), then carefully, with tongs, emptied them into the sink and proceeded to fill them with jam. Remember they have already been washed in the dishwasher for two hours before I stored them in the jar cupboard, so it’s not like they’re filthy and germy when I subsequently go to use them!

I have used this method of ‘sterilising’ for 20+ years, and no mould has ever accumulated on my jams, and no one has ever been poisoned either!

So, if you’ve never done it before why not try it today? It is SO satisfying, and tastes so damned good!

Posted on by Rita
1 comment


Michelle said...

I love your sterilising tip Rita! And storing jars WITH lids - genius!!!!