Wednesday, October 15, 2014

on learning how to make jam, or, post-harvest musings

Now that we've had the first frost (why did it have to be a Sunday morning when I leave for work at 8AM, though?!), I feel like summer and, subsequently, harvest-time have finally drawn to a close, and we're officially into the colder months. This weekend I was walking along the hill at Alexandra Palace and enjoying the very fresh wind - as I regretted my decision to not bring a coat, I realised that meant summer was over. I know that Halloween is officially yet to come, and the pagan in me feels like that is the real end of the summer, but the frost, dark and misty mornings, low sun when driving home and orange crescent moons are telling me it's come already.
Anyway, I digress - this year my mum has taken it upon herself to unofficially teach me how to make jam, jelly, chutney, curd and other preserves, so thought I'd show you a few photos I snapped of all the preserving-work we've been upto this year whilst I sat and labelled all our jars the other day.

  • It is hot work; I didn't really think about how warm it gets standing over a hot pan of sticky, sugary juice and fruit. 
  • Chutney makes your house stink like vinegar, no-matter how many windows you open - but making it on the most humid day of the year before a giant thunderstorm probably didn't help, either.
  • I miss the allotment, and the excitement of bringing home whatever was ready to eat. Although we didn't exactly make jam from the potatoes, it just makes me miss everything. Now the only place I'll be harvesting, for the foreseeable future, is the reduced soft-fruit section at Waitrose..
  • I enjoy quince jelly more than I thought I would - I had no idea it would smell so good cooking. It's weirdly floral, but yeah.
  • I also really enjoy eating jam straight from the jar, and that is generally how I consume it most. I feel like Joey in the one with the jam....
  • There is nothing greater than a jar of home-made lemon curd.
  • I want to try out some more adventurous things now that I've realised it's really not that hard. I still think it's stupid that they make them make their own jam for a victoria sponge on Great British Bake-Off, but it's really not that hard. 
  • Jam/sugar thermometers are really irritating. The jam gets caught underneath + behind them and then catches and burns and you end up with burnt jam bits in your lovely pear-jelly.
  • Licking the spoon until I feel sick makes me think I can never eat jam again. I always manage to eat some more the next day.
  • Bulk buying 50 jam-jars from Amazon may seem absurd when you receive that giant box one morning, but you'll be surprised and how many you've used. I think we have about twenty left?
  • People legitimately enjoy receiving it as presents, I've discovered, and even given the jars back for more, which is even more pleasing to know as it gives me an excuse to make more lemon curd. 
  • You'll find yourself rearranging your cupboards or fridge to make space for the jars.
I might joke about how it's dirty work, but I love it. I'm weirdly sentimental, but both my grandmothers made jam and jelly and stuff, and it's something I associate so inherently with my mum - I think she's made some form of blackberry jam every year of my life since I can remember, and probably longer than that. It makes me smile to know that I'm learning too, and now I can scoff at those pretty jars of Bonne Maman jam when they're on offer in the shops, as I know I've got something nicer and tastier at home.

Have you tried making jam yet? I promise you, it's insanely satisfying to see those colourful jars all laid out on the work-top and neatly labelled. Almost as satisfying as not knowing what kind of jam to have on my toast - do I go for the pear, plum, quince, damson, blackberry, apple, raspberry, strawberry...


  1. I proper love making my own preserves, I have a "pantry" shelf thats totally full of chutneys and jams - nothing makes me feel better on a sunday than breakfast in bed with homemade jam. I do disagree with you thou, homemade blood orange curd is nicer than lemon curd ;)

  2. I grew up with my mam and gran always making their own jams (typically strawberry or raspberry) so it was second nature for me to do the same. I love making it, it love hearing it bubble i have to admit. I always tend to stick to vintage recipes for it, modern ones to me, seem more complicated then they need to me and I do find that raspberry is typically "easier" to make that strawberry which sometimes never sets right for whatever reason. I made a caramel apple jam last year, which while super sweet was delicious. I really need to make some lemon curd at some point mind, love that stuff.

  3. I have always been too scared to make jam for some reason. I always imagine it will end in a kitchen related tantrum! x


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