How to: Winter spiced plum jam

I’ve been intending to get into jam for ages. Like, five years. In fact, I bought some pectin about that long ago in preparation for my jammy exploits. Until I saw the prohibitive price of fruit. Last year, a friend and I went on a great spread-making workshop that reignited the passion that had lain dormant for long ago. And then on Tuesday night I spotted some bargain fruit at the supermarket. The time (and plum harvest) was ripe. And here are the fruits of my labour (pun totally intended.)Four jars

I’ll be giving most of this away. Much as I enjoy jam, it would take me at least a year to get through this, plus the plastic container of jam I put in the fridge as I hadn’t sterilised enough jars. This jam is sweet but still with an edge of tartness and a strong, warming hit of spice. I tasted it a few times throughout to monitor this (and because that’s just what I do, okay?)

Ingredients:

This makes about four 340g jars, plus one 200g jar.

  • About 1.2kg of plums
  • About 1kg of sugar
  • 1 sachet pectin
  • 1 or 2 lemons
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5-7 cloves (I used 10, which I think was a bit of overkill)
  • 3 allspice (pimento) berries (I used 5)

Feel free to experiment with spices. I reckon some grated root ginger (or, indeed, powder) would be lovely in this. Star anise also adds an Asian hum. Make sure you count how many cloves etc you put in so you can pick them all out at the end. No one likes crunchy bits in their jam.

Equipment

  • A large, clean pot. The fruit should only fill it halfway so that you don’t risk it boiling over
  • A wooden spoon
  • A grater
  • Five jars, with lids. I just recycle jars, ensuring I wash them thoroughly.
  • A saucer.
  • Funnel (optional. I will get a proper one for the next time I make jam.)

Method

  1. Thoroughly wash and dry your jars in hot, soapy water. Set the jars aside and put the lids in a clean bowl.
  2. Put a clean saucer in the fridge. You’ll need this for the ‘wrinkle test’ later.
  3. Cut up your fruit and remove the stones. You can be very messy about this, it doesn’t matter. Eat or chuck any very bruised bits. I recommend doing this in front of the telly as it’ll take a while.Cut plums
  4. Put over a medium to low heat and cook the fruit until soft. Grate in the lemon zest, squeeze in the juice and bung in the spices.The spices
  5. Once the fruit has softened, add the sugar. Stir and turn up the heat.
  6. Cook until the sugar has dissolved. Taste at this point (be careful, it’s hot!) and add more sugar if necessary. I started with 600g, then upped to a kilo.Bubbling
  7. Put the oven on, to 140degrees and pop your clean jars (not lids) in.
  8. Leave to boil quite strongly. After about 20 mins, begin testing to see if the jam has reached its setting point. Put a teaspoon of the jam onto your cold saucer, leave for a few seconds, and push your finger through it. If the surface wrinkles, it’s ready. If your finger slides though it cleanly, leave it for a few more minutes, then test again. I tried to take a picture of the test, but my camera is too rubbish. Apparently setting point is 104-105degrees on a sugar thermometer, if you’re lucky enough to own one.
  9. Pour boiling water over your jar lids to sterilise these.
  10. Once your jam is at setting point, remove from the heat. Leave to stand for about half an hour and pick out the spices.
  11. Remove any froth from the surface of the jam and discard. Stir.
  12. Get your jars out of the oven and carefully dry the lids with kitchen paper or a spotless tea towel.
  13. Carefully pour the jam into your jars. Leave a 1cm gap at the top and immediately screw on the lid. I sieved one jar because I’m going to give it to my granny, who is on a low fibre diet. The sieving yields a smoother and clearer jam, but I prefer it with the bits of skin in there. Also, the sieving is quite a lot of hassle and mess if you don’t have a decent funnel.
  14. You’re done! If your jars were sterilised properly, unopened jam should keep in the cupboard for a few months, and a couple of weeks once opened.

If you’re a sad sack like me, you’ll also want to waste some time designing labels for your jars. It’s wise to label them with the date so they don’t get confused with any other mysterious jars cluttering up your cupboards.Labels

But I think they add a little something to the handmade charm.Labelled jars

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How to: Mango and Lime Curd

In my opinion, curd is one of the most horrible food terms around. So much so that I didn’t try it until I was in my early twenties. How could something that rhymes with turd be nice to eat? And yet it is. Utterly delicious. A while ago, I went to a spread-making workshop with a fellow crafty crusader and my eyes were opened. You can make curd with things that aren’t citrus fruit! From then my mission was clear: make mango curd. Who doesn’t love mango? Anyway, here’s how.

Ingredients (makes 1 large (340g) and 1 small (185g) jar):

  • 2 large mangoes or about 350g frozen mango (this is what I used)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used golden caster)
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 50g salted butter
  • 1-2 limes
  • Jars (I know these are actually equipment, but hey ho)

Method

  1. Sterilise your jars. Wash them thoroughly, then put them in an oven about 180 degrees C. Pour boiling water in the lids.
  2. If using fresh mangoes, peel and dice. If using frozen chunks, measure about 2 rounded cups worth, plus a little extra for luckImage
  3. Zest the lime(s) and reserve, then squeeze the juice directly over the mango, taking care to remove any seeds
  4. Add about half the sugar and puree. This is important: TASTE THE PUREE, then adjust the lime and sugar according to taste. Mango is a very delicate flavour that is easily overpowered by the lime and sugar. I used a little under half a cup of sugar, and about one and a quarter limes. My curd came out quite tart, but still with that subtle mango taste. Puree again after each addition.
  5. Separate the eggs and add all the yolks to the puree. You can use the whole eggs, in which case you would probably only need about 5, but using just the yolks gives a lovely golden colour. I froze the whites and have it on good-enough authority (from t’internet) that you can still use them for meringues. Puree again.
  6. Sieve the puree into a large glass, metal or ceramic bowl. Use a ladle to force it through.Image
  7. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Try not to let the water touch the bottom of the bowl or boil dry. Don’t use direct heat- this will result in the egg scrambling. Don’t worry if you don’t have fancy kitchen equipment. Improvise!Image
  8. Stir pretty much constantly until the mixture heats and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. This means that if you draw your finger through the mixture on the spoon, it will leave a clear path like soImage
  9. Turn off the oven.
  10. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the butter, one 2cm cube at a time until incorporated. I think the butter is optional. Mmmmm…. rich creamery butter.
  11. Stir in the lime zest. This is optional too, but adds another nice colour, interesting texture and gives a more home-made feel.Image
  12. Using oven gloves (obviously), remove your first jar from the oven. Carefully pour your curd in. Pour the curd while as hot as possible. Dry the lid of the jar with a clean tea-towel and screw on immediately.
  13. Repeat with any additional jars.Image

Just as a warning, don’t give curd to pregnant women as the egg is classified as partially cooked. If you’re very sad, you can even make little labels for the jars.Image

I’m not ashamed.