The first time I heard about allotments was when I watched Carla Lane’s, ‘Bread’ back in the late 80’s. Lilo Lil spent a lot of time in an allotment shed which housed a mattress. Back then, Eastenders’ Arthur spent half his life on the allotment. I thought he was bonkers spending so much time at what I considered to be a scruffy plot, sitting in his shed, drinking tea. But when I moved to England, I immediately put my name on the waiting list and this is my first year with an allotment.
Dan and I spent a lot of time down there this week harvesting fruit. Gooseberries, loganberries and blackcurrants were picked weighed and washed ready for a jamfest.
Why I’ve waited till my forties to make jam, I’ll never know. It’s incredibly easy and satisfying.
Here are my tips on how to make jams and preserves.
All you need is a stainless steel pan, fruit, sugar and some sterilised jam jars.
How to Sterilise Jars and Lids for preserving
It is essential to sterilise jars and seals before use.
Place jars and lids in the dishwasher, timing the cycle to finish as your jam is ready. Remember to hold only the outsides when you take them out.
Another method is to wash in warm soapy water, rinse in clean water and drain. Then, place in an oven set at 130C or 260F for 10 minutes. If you’re using Kilner or Mason Jars with lid inserts, these do not tolerate dry heat, so put them in a saucepan of water and boil for 10 minutes.
How to test the Setting Point
Place a saucer and spoon in the freezer while preparing the fruit. Once the jam is ready, test for setting by putting a teaspoon of jam on the a cold plate and leaving it for a few minutes in a cool place. Press the jam with your index finger. If it wrinkles even slightly, it is set.
Keep the jam in a cool place (a pantry is ideal) or on a shelf in your kitchen. I smile every time l see my homemade jam. It should last up to 12 months, though I’d be surprised if you can resist it that long.
Easy Jam and Preserve Recipes
Hedgerow Preserve (This recipe was published in The Guardian)