There are a few occasions, where you are allowed to feel smug and thoroughly satisfied with your lovely, clever self. For me, preserving is one of them. I won’t mention the others. Row upon row of pretty coloured bottles, with neat, trim labels of homemade jams, jellies, preserves, conserves and chutneys make me feel hedonistically good about myself. If ever I have a dip in confidence during the day, a look at that jar laden shelf, restores me to balance. Do not underestimate the power wielded by food, in any capacity. Kingdoms have been won, or bought, over a groaning table laden with good eats. Not to mention many a courtship.
I had a bag of frozen raspberries and some oranges that were starting to look a little less pert, so I decided to throw them together and the result was deliciously tangy and fruity with more than just a bit of boiled sweetie in the taste. The good thing about this is that you can alter the amount of orange you want in the mix. I used two medium sized ones here, which makes the orange flavour a big player in the final product, but you could just as easily restrict it to one citrus and have more of a raspberry dominance.
So if you haven’t had a go before, I encourage you to give it a try. It might go belly up but that’s why you should keep the quantities small. Enough for a jar or two to begin with. Here are some pointers, should you be new to this business…
Soft fruit (raspberries, strawberries and the like) can be a bit problematic when it comes to setting point (usually a 106 deg C) and that’s because of a lack of pectin, which is the natural setting agent. To compensate, a tablespoon or two of lemon juice does the job as well as offering a piquant counterpoint to the sweetness of the fruit. Jam sugar, which has pectin added to it already, helps a fair bit in this regard, but it isn’t necessary. I prefer a soft set jam and I think it’s better for it, as you are not chasing the elusive setting point, overcooking your mixture. You might as well go full throttle and make pastilles in that case. A soft set jam, ready at about a temperature of 104-105 deg C still retains the natural flavours of the fruit, while still being glossy and moist. If you see the colour of the jam starting to darken a fair bit and can smell caramel tones, you have overcooked your mixture.
Traditional jam making required the preserves to keep for at least a year, and as a result an equal weight of sugar to the fruit was used. I prefer making smaller batches, which means it doesn’t need to keep that long. So I reduce the sugar level to half of that of the fruit. I think you can also really taste the fruit in this case, rather than the sugar. But feel free to use more if you like, its no biggie.
Make sure your sugar is completely melted before you start boiling the mix or it will crystallise.
Also, here, I have used frozen raspberries, as the fresh ones here are so extortionate, that they render any ideas of preserving as reckless. You might as well save a fortune and buy jam.
American canning methods involve boiling the filled cans in a hot water bath. British methods, I think, are far easier! Decant the hot jam into cleaned, dry, warm jars and seal with the lid. That’s it. I haven’t had any preserves spoil doing it this way. Do as you see fit.
So here we go. I warn you, there are a lot of pictures. I am a bit addicted to the camera, and jam is a beautiful subject.
The one way to use this beautiful ruby coloured, seed speckled jam is to slap them onto buttery scones. I have tried a few recipes and after some very hearty recommendations I tried this one, by Rachel Allen.
They were right, the scones were buttery, light, quick and easy to make. The buttermilk gave it a delicious tang and kept the crumb tender, tender, tender. Whatever you do, handle the dough as little as you, to get the fluffiest scones.
So there you have it! If you are a seasoned hand at preserving I would love to hear of your favourite combinations, or if you had faith and made this one, whatever the outcome, do let me know about it. Just so that I can be part of that delicious feeling of self- satisfaction.