I have never been a great maker of jam. I used to try. Raised by a mother well versed in the traditional skills, I would put on the jam pan and make an excessively large amount of one type of jam. If the stars were in alignment, this jam would set adequately. If not, the jam pan would boil away for ages while I valiantly added additional sugar and lemon juice to try and reach setting point. At the end of it, the jam would be brownish in hue and there would be far too many jars of less than stellar jam.
My late mother-in-law was a superb jam maker and my efforts never came within cooee of matching her delicious jams. Her fruit salad jam was my all time favourite but I recall her Sultan plum and cape gooseberry jams being exceptionally good, too. I got rid of my jam pan and would buy the occasional jar at the supermarket. We are not big jam eaters, I reasoned.
But I am a born-again maker of jam due to three recent discoveries. The first was the realisation that jam tastes best when very fresh and that it is therefore logical to make smaller quantities at a time.
The second was the discovery of Chelsea jam sugar. It costs more than ordinary sugar with its added pectin but reduces the time needed to boil the jam down to as little as four minutes before the setting point is reached. This means the jam keeps its bright colour and fresh flavour, while the fruit stays nice and chunky.
The third discovery was about little green apples, but in the autumn time. I had read about using green apples to make one’s own pectin but didn’t try it until this year. It works! It works a treat. Combined with jam sugar, I think I have rediscovered a (minor) passion for jam. I just wash the apples, cut them in bits and remove any bad bits, codling moth or similar before boiling them up. Once strained off, there is a liquid base which lends itself to the addition of any manner of fruit.
The latest efforts are ginger and tangelo marmalade (in apple base) and feijoa and passionfruit jam. Having frozen some apple liquid, I anticipate continuing to make mixed fruit jams which may even be said to rival those of my very late mother in law. There is much more incentive when the process of making the actual jam becomes a 10 minute job with guaranteed results.