Category Archives: preserves

Still Jammin’

Hello, thought I’d just check in. TLM has been working for what seems like forever, and we’ve got next week off together, hooray. Fingers crossed for clear bright days to continue!

The blackberry jam has gone down very well (not that I’m a fan of jam myself) and a fiery plum and apple chutney (adaptation of a Nigella recipe) was also met with approval. Got my hands on some cheap strawberries, so made 5 jars of strawberry jam. I’ll get my official taster (TLM) to try it and if it’s up to scratch I’ll get the recipe up.

Hopefully I’ll get my act together and post a bit more, but a serious of semi-calamitous events recently have left me with bigger fish to fry.

Get blackberry-jammin’

“big dark blobs burned like a plate of eyes”

Seamus Heaney, a poet I hugely admire and have been lucky enough to see read in person, is who I hand over to to describe this time of year in England, where blackberries and greed abound:


Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

by Seamus Heaney

So don’t squander your blackberries (I’m hoping there will be a final flush soon, if the sun comes out again)

by doing this:
to make this:
It is REALLY REALLY EASY. TLM has had the first jar, and apparently tastes good, is the right consistency and (honour of honours) tastes “just like normal jam … “!

Ingredients – make 7 jars (which should be sterilized beforehand – by a thorough wash with soapy water, then leave them to dry in a medium-hot oven and make sure the hot jam goes into hot jars before screwing the lid on tight tight tight!)

  • 1700 g blackberries (this is about an hour’s worth of picking for one person, and the most a single person can take before being prickled beyond tolerance)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 150 ml water
  • 2 sachets of pectin (8g sachets)
  • 1500 g sugar

How to make it

Put two or three saucers in the fridge. Wash the blackberries, dislodging any bugs (I try not to drown them, after all they were only being greedy too). Add the blackberries, lemon juice and water to a large pan and boil gently for 30 minutes. After this stage, add the sugar and pectin and boil rigorously for 5-8 minutes. Mine took about 8 minutes until it reached ‘setting point’. This is where the cold saucers come in handy… to know when your jam is the right consistency (and not just a mushy syrup), you spoon a little jam onto the cold plate, let it cool slightly, and then draw your finger gently across the top. If the jam puckers – just a little – then you have reached setting point! You don’t want full on wrinkles, just a little resistance rather than liquidity. Be warned that this is probably runnier than you think it should be for jam. Don’t worry if you think it’s far too runny as you spoon it into the jar, as the jam will thicken when it cools. For me, runny jam is better than jam you have to chop up with your spoon.

Try it!

It really hit home that this is a way of preserving, and so when I was using up the last of my apples in the garden and needed a bit more fruit, I bunged in some of this blackberry jam (removing some of the sugar from the crumble recipe to make up!) and it was scrummy.

The Fruit Preservation Society

Membership: 1

I’m sure I’ve already told you that our garden here is a veritable Garden of Eden, and now we’ve lived here for a year we’ve had the full cycle of apples, plums, strawberries, raspberries, hazelnuts and (a few rather sad) passionfruit. This time last year we were just moving in and the plums and apples had mainly fallen. This year, I was well and truly ready. I plucked the plums regularly so that if any fell, I knew that had only fallen that day and, subject to strict quality controls ;-), were good to go. As there are four plum trees, I have had hundreds of Victoria (?) plums. It took me two hours to halve and stone these that remained after giving bag after bag away to friends, family and anyone who paused long enough for me to hook a carrier bag on.

and it left my hands brown and revolting. They’re still stained despite bleach, nailbrush and a Lady Macbeth-esque frenzy.

This year’s apple crop wasn’t as good at last year’s (pictured below). They were on the whole smaller and there were a lot less of them. It could be because of the weather, but I think the apple tree may be dying. It’s not too happy-looking.

As we also live a short hop from the river (as in, a 20-second walk!) I’ve discovered that nearly on our doorstep we have mega loads of blackberry bushes! Knowing I wanted to make blackberry jam today I was up at 8 am to harvest about 2 kg of blackberries before everyone else decided that it would be a good way to spend Saturday afternoon … mwah ha ha ha.

So for the past few weeks we’ve been having (and I’ve been inviting people round for) lots of fruit with icecream and cream, a lot of apple and blackberry crumble, apple and plum crumble, plum pie and various other combinations. However, I’ve decided it’s time to STOP eating the glut of fruit and start to preserve it.

So today I went to town, got a whole load of jars (will need some more…) and various ingredients and set about making blackberry jam, apple and plum chutney, plum and ginger chutney, plum jam and Chinese plum sauce – alongside stewing plums and apples to freeze in portions.

Having never made jam before, I think the blackberry jam looks promising. It seems to thicken nicely as it cools. I was worried I’d stopped cooking it too soon while it was runny as I was scared of ruining my lovely stockpot.

I’ve run out of jars, I’m knackered and scalded, and the house smells of sugar and vinegar. Further reports will follow.