Once a year I become jam making mama, and each year I tell myself that I should do it more often.
I've mentioned before how huge the school fete is out here. So huge that I dust off the big pot and make jar upon jar of jam. So huge that it takes over life for the school community for a couple of months. A few years ago Neil helped to convene the fete - now that was extra huge! Anyway, that's all another story, what I wanted to record here was my latest adventure in jam making as I actually think that this is the nicest tasting jam that I have made to date..
Let me walk you through Pear, Vanilla and Cinnamon jam.
I don't hold any claim to being an expert jam maker...not by any stretch of the imagination, but I have to admit that if you have enough time on your hands then it's pretty straight forward and easy.
I chose a Saturday when Neil and Sibs were away camping so I could take over the kitchen, plug in the ipod and make jam to my hearts content.
My choice of jam flavour was entirely spontaneous.....it was whatever fruit was on offer! At $1.50 a kilo, pears became the flavour of choice. So armed with a box of pears, a few kilos of sugar and a coffee I set myself up for a few hours of domesticity.
First step in jam making is to have plenty of empty jars. I gave them a wash in the sink to try and remove as many labels as I could and then put them through the dishwasher before popping them in the oven to sterilise. (more on that later)
It's very satisfying seeing gleaming glass jars all ready for the 'fruits of your labour' (pun intended!)
Whilst the dishwasher was doing its thing I got on with the slightly laborious task of preparing the pears.
First off I peeled them, then used a corer and slicer to cut them. This was pretty easy as the pears were quite soft.
They look a little like hand cut chips here. I didn't get the weight of them unpeeled and uncut, but 40 average sized pears gave me 3.5 kilos once prepared as above.
I put a couple of centimetres of water in the bottom of a large pan together with the juice of half a lemon and added the pears and cooked them until soft. I made the jam in two batches so put in 2 kilos of pears in the first batch. I added some vanilla at this point. I only had vanilla extract in my pantry so I added a couple of teaspoons. I'm sure you could use vanilla pods or any vanilla flavouring.
Once the pears were soft enough to be mashed you then add warmed sugar. I warmed my sugar in the oven.
I believe that that general rule about jam making is equal quantities of sugar to fruit. So for 2kg of pears, I possibly should have added 2kg of sugar. However, I only added 1.5kg of sugar and it turned out fine.
Then you boil away - vigorously. The first batch that I made was just pear and vanilla and when I tasted it just before decanting into the jars I felt it was a little bland. The sweetness of the vanilla was nice, but it was a touch sickly. I rummaged in the pantry and found some ground cinnamon and added a teaspoon to the pot. This gave the jam a slightly darker colour and a lovely warm flavour.
Once the jam has been boiling for about about 10 mins you need to check if it's setting. I'm sure experienced jam makers will talk about the correct temperature for this, but I just use the cold saucer method.
When you put your jam onto boil put a few saucers in the freezer. To test if your jam is set, just remove a cold saucer, place a teaspoon of jam onto it, leave it a few second and run a knife through the jam. If it separates then your jam is ready. I had to do this 3 times before my jam separated and didn't run together so the boiling process took closer to 30 minutes.
Once this point has been reached, remove the pot from the heat source and fill your jars. I would recommend the use of a funnel and rubber gloves as the jars can can very hot. Screw the lids on tight and you're done.
A couple of hints and tips.
If the labels on your jars are really sticky, tea tree oil can be effective in removing them.
After dishwashing your jars and lids put them on a tray and place in a cold oven. Switch the oven on to 120c and leave them there until you're ready to use. This will sterilise your jars.You can place your bowl of sugar in the oven to warm through at the same time.
If the jam isn't setting (different fruits can vary with timing and sugar quantities needed) then you can use pectin/jamsetta. Just follow the instructions on the packet. I have used jamsetta in the past and it's rectified very runny jam.
If you spill any jam whilst filling the jars wipe away as soon as you can - it's much easier than trying to clean it off later.
Fill the jars as close to the top as you can.
Make sure the rims of the jars are clean before sealing with the lids.
My 40 pears (3.5kg peeled and chopped) made 18 medium sized jars.
When I make jam it always reminds me of a mum from the school. She was one of the Jam Stall Conveners for the school fete one year. Sadly and cruelly she passed away a few years ago. She was the one that introduced me to jam making when I told her that it all sounded too tricky. I have her notes and some recipes that she gave to me and even though they are a little crumpled and splattered I always refer to them when the big pot comes out of the back of the cupboard.
So I'll raise my jam sandwich in your memory F xxx
2.5 kg sugar
Juice of one lemon
Vanilla extract or pods
Peel and chop pears
Cook in lemon juice, vanilla and a couple of centimtres of water until soft
Add warmed sugar
Add cinnamon (approx 2 teaspoons).
Dissolve sugar and then boil vigorously.
Check after approx 10 minutes to see if the jam has set. If not continue to boil for 5 - 10 minutes before checking again.
Once done, pour into hot sterilised jars and seal