A Note on Jam and Chutney…

Strangely, I’ve been asked a bit recently about jam and chutney-making, which I do quite a lot of… I was asked recently by a friend who had a surplus of greengages – this is what I suggested –

“Jam’s simple – 50:50 or thereabouts, preserving sugar to fruit. Greengages, as part of the plum family, are high in pectin, so use ordinary preserving sugar, not sugar with added pectin. (This helps setting when fruit is low in pectin).

Wash and stone fruit. Put in a large pan with just a little water on the bottom. Cook gently until fruit is soft. Then bring to boil. When fruit boils, add the sugar. Bring to the boil again. This needs to be vigorous – setting temperature will be 105 degrees. Test for set with either a thermometer, or using a saucer that you’ve chilled in the freezer. If the latter, take a spoonful of the mixture. If it sets and doesn’t flow on the chilled saucer, you can put it in jars. If not keep boiling!

When the jam reaches this setting point, put it in sterilised jars and cover. Sterilising can be done by washing jars and putting them in the oven at 100 degrees plus for ten minutes.

I get lids etc. from Wares of Knutsford. Jars are recycled and begged for…

Chutney is more slightly more complex. I use quite a few spices – cardamom pods, allspice, chillis, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, juniper berries – although you don’t have to. I also always use onions (well-chopped) garlic and peppers. Boil the spices with some vinegar – especially if you use cardamom or allspice (allspice needs to be crushed or ground). With the other ingredients – fruit, chopped onions, garlic, peppers – bung them in a big pan, and stew them slowly in vinegar until they’re soft. The vinegar/fruit ratio should be about 1 litre to 2kgs. Then add sugar (about a kilo for every 2kgs of fruit, although this is a matter of taste) – this is primarily to sweeten the mixture – not to help with setting. I use preserving sugar. Bring to a vigorous boil – this can take a bloody age – and the setting point is achieved when you can drag a wooden spoon across the pan and the channel it leaves behind does not fill up with mixture. I often give up before this nirvana is achieved…

I use white wine vinegar or cider vinegar, and I don’t mess around with diddy containers of supermarket vinegar. Get 5 litre containers of cider vinegar and white wine vinegar from Aspall, although other places might have it in sensible quantities.

Hope this is useful – a decent-sized preserving pan is a worthwhile investment – boiling can get vigorous and messy… I inherited my mum’s. It’s about the size of Rutland, and generally suffices… A long wooden spoon makes sense too – hot jam is bloody hot, as is a jam funnel…”

Good luck!


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