Jam-boree | Foraging and Making Jam
It started with free rhubarb from my neighbour.
It's been a good year in England for rhubarb. I have a heritage variety in the garden that has never done very well in the four years I've had it, but this year it has thrived in the cooler temperatures and frequent rain. The same for my neighbours.
I love rhubarb and ginger jam. It's old-fashioned and not produced commercially, it seemed the ideal opportunity, and I had half a dozen Kilner jars in the cupboard waiting to do something. I was a bit apprehensive about making jam, I had tried it when I was younger and not had much success, but the freezer was already full with crumbles*, so jam it would have to be.
It turned out to be quite simple, requiring time and diligence rather than any great skill. The rhubarb and ginger jam was made over the course of several days as I got myself together. There were jobs to do: finding the jars and sterilising them, buying the sugar - I haven't used white sugar for years and rarely use any sugar, so it was an extra trip to the local Co-op for a bag.
I've got into small batch jam making now - just 500g at a time. That works well for me and I can have a pan of jam on the stove while I'm in the kitchen cooking the evening meal. I love a slice of bread and butter and jam in the afternoon with a cup of tea. I'm planning to make six or seven jars over the next week or two, to see me through the winter.
Earlier in the year, I'd discovered wild plums growing in the hedgerow bordering the old University sports field where I often go for a walk. It's one of those interesting marginal places that you find sometimes between the city and the countryside, a boon for children and dog walkers. I went down yesterday and picked a couple of pounds of plums, and some blackberries. This morning I went and collected some windfall apples from the Garden around the corner.
My recipe is very simple: 1:1 ratio of fruit and sugar, juice of a lemon where needed (rhubarb doesn't have much pectin, the natural setting agent in fruits) and any flavourings. I used root ginger, finely grated. I have a cast iron enamelled pan, big enough to hold 500g fruit and 500g sugar at a rolling boil. I cook soft fruits and fruits that discolour straight away, adding fruit and sugar and a splash of water to the pan, heating over a gentle flame until it reaches a rolling boil and cook gently for twenty minutes. Fruits like rhubarb I prepare and add to the pan with the sugar, juice of a lemon and grated ginger root and leave overnight. I'll leave the plums overnight, too.
The setting point of jam has always been one of those mysterious cooking secrets, like making really crumbly shortcrust pastry or getting your bread to rise. In the past I worried too much about it, doing all the testing with drops of jam on saucers that had been put in the freezer. Now I check the jam after twenty minutes, decide if it needs a bit longer, maybe ten minutes, then I turn it off, cover and leave it overnight and see what it looks like in the morning.
Sometimes, it's just right and simply needs bringing back to boil and putting into jars. Other times, I let it cook a little longer until it thickens and then add it to the jars. Depending on your point of view, this is a faff - serious jam makers have their big preserving pan and make up quantities at a time, steaming up the kitchen in the process. I find that a bit stressful. I prefer my small batch making, one or two pots at a time, with the jam bubbling alongside whatever else I am doing in the kitchen, testing it every now and then for taste and consistency.
I'm delighted with my foraging haul, walking home yesterday with a bag of wild plums and this morning with my raincoat pockets full of swag (I forgot to take a bag), both times with a big smile on my face and feeling very pleased with the world and myself. With the sugar and lemon and ginger root included, each jar will cost about 67p on average. The saving is good, but more than that, I enjoy the process of collecting the fruit and building the jam-making into an everyday pleasing activity.
*crumbles are an every day pudding made with fruit, sweetened, and topped with a crumble mixture of flour, butter or margarine and sugar, made by rubbing the fat into the flour and adding the sugar afterwards. You can add flavourings - ginger, lemon zest, spices, dried fruit and nuts - but the basic crumble, perfectly cooked and served with custard, is delicious.
Saturday Savers Club
I run a savings club every Saturday over on the @eddie-earner account. We're aiming to save £670 ($800) by the end of the year using the 365 day savings challenge. You can join any time of the year and set your own goals and plans (some people are saving Hive, others Bitcoin, some their local currency). We share savings tips and there's a free giveaway every week.
Wednesday Wellbeing Club
I'm hosting a Wellbeing Club on Wednesdays from 11 August until 24 November 2021 in the Natural Medicine community. It's for anyone who wants to make a lifestyle change. We have a weekly check-in and hot wellness tips, and a weekly giveaway. Here's the back story and the launch post with more information. Everyone is welcome.
Three things newbies should do in their first week and, for most things, forever afterwards!