September is the month when preserves are high on the cooking agenda. Gluts of pretty much everything are still making us scratch our heads with what to do with all of it. My piece in This French Life offers some advice on how to deal with large amounts of fruit and vegetables.
We start to root out jam jars, plastic boxes and pretty much anything that we can to ensure that nothing goes to waste.
The secret lies in ensuring that our store cupboard offers a wide range of foods that will give a lift to our meals during the winter months. There is little or no point in making 50 jars of strawberry jam or the same quantity of insipid apple chutney.
Variety in this case, is most certainly the spice of life.
I tend to stick to old favourites, which are always eaten up or gratefully received as presents.
One such favourite is membrillo. In it’s original form it is a quince paste from Spain that is eaten with the equally delicious Manchego cheese. Called fruit cheese in English, it is simple to make and has an excellent shelf life. I prefer the flavour and colour of plums so I use them as an alternative.
Plums, stoned and cut in half large. I used plums, plus a mixture of cherries and plums for my second batch
Preserving Sugar (See method for quantities)
Stone and half the plums.
Place in a large, heavy based pan and add just enough water to encourage a gentle boil that will allow the fruit’s juices to flow out.
Stew the fruit until soft, skimming off any stones that may still be in the pan.
Blitz the mixture with a hand blender until smooth.
Carefully weigh the contents of the pan.
Add preserving sugar IN EQUAL WEIGHT to the weight of the fruit. If the fruit weights 1kg, add 1kg of preserving sugar.
Place the pan back on the heat and bring to a slow boil.
Stir regularly until the mixture reduces by a third.
Keep stirring, until you can draw a spoon through the mixture and it leaves a marked trail. This can take up to three hours, depending on the amount of juice in the fruit at the start of the cooking (Hence the reason for keeping down the amount of added water)
Carefully pour into a shallow plastic box with a lid and allow to cool.
Air dry in a cool warm place for a few days
Seal the box with the lid and store in a cool, dark place – A wine cellar is ideal for this.
Serve with your regular cheese-board or give as gifts if you like.
1 kg of plums
500g preserving sugar.
Stone and half the plums and place in a thick bottomed pan
Add a small amount of water just to encourage the fruit to shed its juices.
Slowly bring to the boil and stir regularly
Maintain a rolling boil and continue stirring. Ideally you are looking to thicken the mixture and not set it.
Aim to reduce the total volume by 15-20 % – you can check this from the line of sticky residue around the pan where the boiling first started. You don’t need to be to exact about this.
Cool slightly and store in clean, airtight jars in a fridge.
A Few Alternatives.
Everyone has their own favourites when it comes to jam making. Aaron Tighe of the Circle of Misse Cookery School has come up with a delightful Blackberry and Star Anise Jam along with a Plum and Cabernet D’Anjou Jelly
One of my personal favourites is Cherry Conserve which I made earlier this year. Whatever you choose , enjoy your jam making.