If I were a real food blogger, I'd have made these. But I'm a faker!
Not all that long ago, I had an email from Tate and Lyle rep asking me if I wanted to try some of their range of sugars, which are all now Fair Trade, in the dishes I create for this blog.
I get a lot of junk email sent to the blog's inbox. If it's not Mr. Ogbonna in Nigeria telling me that stand to inherit 500 USD (yippee!), it's someone who wants to sell me cheap Viagra, or even better, cheap and natural Viagra. Sorry guys; I am just not interested.
Free sugar however, I'll take. Even though I pretty much exclusively use Tate and Lyle branded stuff anyway, since that's what my local supermarket stocks. So I agreed to do the trial, and the next day at 7:00am, 5kg of assorted sugar arrived on my doorstep. You must admit that that's a rather amazing start to the morning; beats court summons and phone bills any day of the week!
I didn't really know what to do with it all, but since there was a bag of jam sugar in there, I decided to go with that for a first try. This necessitated a trip to the allotments to pick the blackberries that grow on the scrub land at the edges, and I roped in my friend Lucy to help. I even made her wash and sterilise the jars that had been building up in the shed - Tate and Lyle may trade fairly, but I don't. (Don't worry, I've promised her a share of the finished jam!)
Last time I made jam, I used a different brand of jam sugar, which had completely different usage instructions and a lighter grain than Tate and Lyle's. I thought I'd just wing it and do what I'd done before, which turned out to be a mistake - I had to reboil the jam to make it set properly. The lesson to take away from this, my friends, is not to cut corners just because the sugar is free.
You've already seen that I made crostata with this jam. I recommend you do exactly the same thing, but I was recently in a used book shop and read something that made me want to try something a little unusual (or which seemed so to me). I always seek out the children's section in old book stores, on the hunt for Enid Blytons. I don't actually collect them, but loved her books so much as a child that I like trying to find first editions now. Flicking through a copy of one of the Secret Sevens I found a scene that I remember reading as a child, in which the Seven, holed up in a secret meeting in the Peter's garden shed, drink blackcurrant tea made with hot water and leftover jam from a pot in the larder. Figuring that since I've had yuzu cha before, and liked it, there was no reason not to try my own home-spun version; it was quite nice. Much better than the last time I was influenced by food in a children's book - Mum thought I was crazy when I asked for bread and margarine for my after school snack as a child (having read Roald Dahl's Matilda), and after having tasted it myself, so did I. I was straight back onto the scones after that, let me tell you.
If you want to be an expert jam maker, which I am not, you would do well to buy a copy of Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2. It is an amazing book, and lists recipes and methods seasonally, so you could do a different jam, relish or chutney every month for several years and never make the same things twice.
You will need:
- Pick over the berries and discard any bad ones. Pour all the fruit into a large bowl and cover with water. Add 1 tbsp salt and leave to soak for an hour. Then drain and pick over the fruit again. You will find a horrifying amount of bugs. Don't worry about it now, just be thankful that you didn't skip this step.
- Wash your jars and dry them off in a cool oven to sterilise. Boil the lids in clean water for 10 minutes, and dry them off in the oven as well. Put a saucer in the freezer.
- Weigh your fruit, and put it into a large pan with an equal quantity of jam sugar.
- Over a medium heat, stir and mash the fruit and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Resist the urge to add water as you'll have to boil the jam for longer.
- Bring the mixture to the boil, and stop stirring. It will rise in the pan and spit; be careful.
- After 6 minutes, test for setting point. This means drizzling a small amount onto the saucer you put in the freezer earlier and poking it with your little finger. If the surface wrinkles, setting point has been reached.
- Pour the jam into the jars and seal immediately.