Posts Tagged ‘jam’

Plum birthday cake

January 14, 2012

We have had a terrible wind storm the past couple of days, and it was a relief to wake up to relative calm this morning.

The children played outside, The Dad hung some washing out, and I gave our poor old tomato plants some TLC – they had all been blown over at least once each during the storm, and were looking battered and dried-out, so I watered and fed them and trimmed off any damaged branches and dead leaves.

As I was disposing of the trimmings, I came across a “birthday cake” Babess had made.  She had gathered a dozen or so windfall plums, and piled dandelions, buttercups and daisies on top.  Yes, our lawn desperately needs mowing, but at least she has plenty of flowers for decorating with!

I looked at the plums.  Most of them were still in perfect condition.  I “rescued” them from the birthday cake – that game had been abandoned anyway – and checked the plum tree.  There was still lots of ripe fruit on it, mostly within easy reach.

The Dad and the kids helped me, and we gathered an ice-cream container full of small, dark plums.  Only about a kilo (2.5lb), but enough for five jars of jam I would think.  Fainjin is very keen to help me make jam again, and Babess wants to help this time too – I think she wants her name on the labels!

I hope it’s as good as last year’s plum jam.  Mmmmmm.

© UpsideBackwards 2012.

How to Make Strawberry Jam

November 25, 2011

The plum jam I made earlier this year was a huge hit, so since strawberries are plentiful, relatively cheap and good-tasting at this time of year, I thought I’d have a go at strawberry jam.  Fainjin was home with me today for some one-on-one time, and he had great fun helping.

To make strawberry jam, you need:

strawberries

sugar

lemon juice

jars and lids

a 4-year-old helper wearing an apron

several pots

a smoke alarm

First, sterilise the jars.  While they’re bubbling in the pot, wash and hull the strawberries, chopping them roughly into a large bowl.

About half the strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped

Pass the strawberries to your helper, and give him a masher.  Sound effects are optional, but Fainjin found chanting “Moosh moosh moosh” to be helpful.

Moosh moosh

Keep mooshing until the berries are moderately-well crushed (your helper might need a hand, depending on how squishy the strawberries are to start with).

Well-mooshed!

Note the lovely Moomin apron, appropriated from his little sister’s dress-up box.

Next, measure the crushed berries.  We had 8 cups!  That meant we needed half a cup of lemon juice.  Fainjin was over the moon to have a reason to pick the lemons (he often brings me some just for fun).

Lemons from our tree!

Now, because we had eight cups of berries, we needed eight cups of sugar.  Stop at this point and discuss with the four-year-old: we need eight cups of sugar, and there are two measures in each cup.  So how many measures of sugar do we need?  (Lots of prompting and counting on fingers, and reminders that eighteen is not the number after fifteen might be required). Measure out the sugar, with your helper counting the measures out loud.

Put everything into a large saucepan

Stir over a low heat, until the sugar is dissolved.  Then turn the heat up and bring to a rolling boil.  Allow your helper to stir very carefully.

My little stirrer!

Notice that the jam bubbles up quite high, quite quickly.  Start to worry that it might boil over.  Move the helper out of the way.

ummmm....

I think you know what happens next.  Teach the four-year-old a few new words, and breathe in the delicious aroma of burnt sugar.  Quickly turn off the gas!  (Ooops, not quickly enough).  If you’re unlucky, or slow, the smoke alarm will let your neighbours know you’re cooking.

Decant a portion of the jam into another large pot, and bring to the boil.  Clean the sides and bottom of the first pot, clean the stovetop, and bring the first pot back to the boil.  Don’t be disappointed if your helper decides that making a Lego airplane to take us all to Australia is more important than helping make jam right now.

back on track

Boil for 10 minutes (or more for the larger pot), until jam sets on a cold plate.  Then pour into jars, seal, and so on.

Strawberry jam, and a Lego plane to take us to Australia

When the pot has cooled, scrape a teaspoon along one side and give your helper a taste of the fruit of his labours.  Your reward is his huge grin and judgement: “It’s deeeeelicious!”

Oh, and several jars of jam, and a caramel-scented kitchen, and a huge pile of sticky dishes.

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

A Plum Job

February 15, 2011

At the weekend, my best friend and I went to a farmers’ market, and she bought 10kg of peaches for stewing and freezing.  The orchardist was pleased enough to empty his box of second-grade peaches (later customers would be compelled to buy the more expensive ones), and offered us a bag of plums as well.  He tossed me a bag and said “Take as many as you want”.

The plums were very ripe, and had been affected by recent heavy rain so were starting to split.  Without any real thought of what to do with them, I happily filled up the bag.  I like plums.  Especially free ones!

When we got home, we split the plums between us (and I got a couple of peaches as well, yummy!).  I thought about making plum sauce, then decided jam would be simpler – fewer ingredients.  I’ve never made jam before.  I picked up some jam sugar and some jars from the supermarket, and called my Mum for hints.  Thanks, Mum!

On Monday morning, I took my plums down to the butcher.  Yes, that is a little odd, but I don’t have kitchen scales and I knew the butcher would weigh the fruit for me.  I should probably take them a jar of the jam, I suppose.  I had 1.25kg of plums, just perfect to use a whole bag of the jam sugar.

So, I counted the plums.  That’s important.  Then I put them into a large pot with a little water, on low heat.

Plums for jam. Lids and rings ready for heating on the back burner.

Slowly, they started to get mushy…

Mushy plums.

As they got very mushy indeed, I was able to start fishing out the stones.

39 plum stones

This is why counting the fruit first was so important!

Aren't they a very bright red?!

Then I tipped in the 1kg bag of jam sugar – it has pectin mixed in, to help with setting – and turned up the heat.

bubble, bubble, toil and trouble!

Luckily, I had remembered to change out of my favourite white t-shirt before we got to this stage.

If it doesn't splatter up the walls, you're probably not doing it right

Somehow, it doesn’t look as gory in the photos.  At the time, I thought my kitchen looked like the set of a horror movie.

Eventually, it was time to test.  I followed instructions, and looked for a skin to form.

Crinkly jam skin. It is very bright red, isn't it!

Woohoo!  I got my warm sterilised jars out of the oven, and started pouring the jam into them.  That was messy.  I was glad there were no kids in the house to “help” with that part.  Then I carefully sealed the jars, and turned them upside down for 20 minutes.

there was a little bit left over so I put it into a clean glass to be used right away

Then I looked at my kitchen.

Icky sticky messy!

Definitely time for a clean-up.  Thank goodness for my new easy-clean kitchen with stain-resistant benchtop!  Then I turned the jars back over, and listened gleefully to them go “Pop… pop… pop…” as they all sealed.  I was very proud of my efforts.

fruits of my labours

And it tastes great!  I had been worried about the setting, and whether I boiled it long enough, but in fact the jam is not the least bit runny.  Rather on the hard side.  That’s ok, it’s fine, and I’ll be less anxious next time.

Now, who wants to come for afternoon tea – scones with plum jam, anyone?

© UpsideBackwards 2011.


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