I’ve been meaning to write this post for a week, but hadn’t quite got around to it. Last weekend I did a lot of fruit picking with my dad. We’d gone sloe and blackberry picking down the drove and collected plums and both eating and cooking apples from my parents’ garden. I was driven home last Sunday with a lot of this fruit and one of my parents’ large pans so that I could make some jam and other such jarred loveliness. The result was several jars of plum and ginger jam, plum and apple chutney, apply and thyme jelly and sweet chilli jelly, not to mention the blackberries, stewed apple and sloes (which have since been thrown into a kilner jar with some gin) in my freezer.
I’ve been collecting jars for several months – jam jars, condiment jars, sauce jars etc. If you’re not a serial hoarder, you can buy jars from cookery shops, homeware stores and even some supermarkets.
The instructions below are very very rough – a lot of it was trial and error, involving a lot of tasting between times.
If anyone’s got a favourite preserving recipe I’d love to hear it!
Plum and Ginger Jam
4lb fresh plums (most of mine were yellow plums, but there were a handful of little red cherry plums too)
Around 4oz fresh root ginger
1 pint water
Between 1-4lb preserving sugar
Pectin (I used 1 Tate and Lyle Pectin Sachet)
- Sterilise some jars and leave in a low oven to keep warm and dry. I ended up with 6 jars of jam.
- Grease your preserving pan to prevent the fruit from sticking.
- Weigh the bowl or pan you’ll be stoning your plums into and zero the scales. This will prevent frustrating guesswork as to how heavy your fruit it later on.
- Wash the fruit as necessary. Stone your plums into the bowl or pan you weighed. This is a job which can be done whilst sitting on the settee watching a favourite film or some TV programme. I watching University Challenge and then trashed it up with Don’t Tell the Bride😉
- Peel the ginger and grate finely. Squeeze the juice from the fibrous gunk into the fruit and discard. Add the grated ginger to the plums with the water.
- Stew the plums on a medium heat until they have cooked down. Mix the pectin with some sugar and stir through the fruit to dissolve. Continue to sweeten the plums, tasting as you go. I only added about 1lb of sugar because I like my fruit more tart than most people.
- Remove the jars from the oven (carefully – they’ll be hot!) and jar the jam immediately. Label with the type of jam and the date. Keep in a cool, dark, dry place and refrigerate once opened.
Plum and Apple Chutney
2lb stoned plums
1lb cooking apples
A few onions
Your favourite spices – I think I used some mustard seeds, smoked paprika, ground ginger, cumin and cayenne pepper
2lb brown sugar
1 pint malt vinegar (I used the absolute cheapest stuff and it worked fine)
2 tablespoons salt
- Sterilise some jars and leave in a low oven to keep warm and dry. I ended up with 4 very large jars of chutney.
- Peel and chop the apple and onion. Fry the onion and spices in a little oil.
- Add the apples to the onion and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil.
- Turn the heat down and simmer until the fruit has softened and the chutney thickened.
- Jar the chutney, label and allow to mature for a couple of weeks before using.
Apple Jelly from The Ballymaloe Cookery Course
5 1/2 lb cooking apples
4 1/2 pints water
2 sachets pectin (Darina Allen tells you not to use pectin, but I don’t think this would have set otherwise)
Your chosen flavours – I did some with fresh thyme and some with fresh chilli, but use whichever herbs/spices you fancy
- Sterilise some jars and leave in a low oven to keep warm and dry. I ended up with 7 jars of jelly.
- Chop up the apples, but do not discard the peel or cores. Place in a pan with the water and lemon zest. Cook until the fruit has turned to pulp.
- Transfer the pulp into a jelly bag and allow to drip overnight. You’re not supposed to squeeze the bag, but I did in order to get as much juice as possible out of the apples.
- Place a couple of plates in the fridge. You will use these to check if the jelly has set.
- Measure the juice into a pan. Mix the pectin with the sugar and add 1lb of sugar for every 1 pint of juice. Squeeze the lemons into the juice and warm gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook without stirring for 10 minutes. As a warning, my jelly was very sweet, but perhaps the apples weren’t as sharp as cookers usually are.
- Drop some juice onto one the the cold plates and return to the fridge for a couple of minutes. Remove the plate and push your finger against the juice – if it wrinkles, it has set and the jelly is ready to jar.
- Stir through your chosen flavouring and jar. As the jelly cools, twist the jars in order to redistribute the herbs/spices so that the pieces are suspended throughout the jelly, rather than floating to the top.
- Serve with meats and cheeses or use in cooking. We had some of the thyme jelly with roast lamb at the weekend, which was really good. Mint or rosemary would have worked well too.