I was not expecting the odyssey that it became to make this bloody jam.
Monday - I go to the shop and buy a big bag of caster sugar with the weekly shop. On getting home, I decide I will go pick the blackcurrants once the shopping is packed away. I am about to start when I notice it has started raining. I decide to wait until it stops as it looks like a lot to pick. It is still raining 9 hours later.
Tuesday - it's raining when we get up, but after clearing up the kitchen after school run, I notice it's not too bad, and head outside. It is now 10am. I figure it's going to take me half an hour. After half an hour, there's still loads to pick on the bush. I tell myself I'll stop, at the latest, at 11am. By the time 11am rolls around, I feel like I've just got a few more to pick so I tell myself I may as well finish clearing the bush as more rain is forecast and the berries might rot. I finally finish at 11.20am with a huge bowl of blackcurrants to show for my labours.
|Fresh from the garden|
I wash, pick over and weigh the blackcurrants. Nearly 2kg! The recipe I have is for 1kg. Simple, I think - I'll just double the recipe. I have a large stockpot I've used before now. The recipe states a lot of water (and I think I'd add less definitely in future, as from what I know of jam-making, you need to cook the fruit and reduce it to an extent for it to be the right pectin level to set. Too much water is going to slow down how long this takes). So, I think my first mistake is to blithely double the amount of water needed to the pan.
Noon - The blackcurrants need to boil and soften apparently before the sugar is added so the pan goes on the hob. And I wait. My problem is that the stockpot is so big that leaving the lid off means it doesn't boil properly, and putting it on means it boils over too easily. And that amount of blackcurrants and water take a looooooong time to get up to boiling point. It's nearly 12.20pm by the time it starts boiling when I encounter aforementioned problem with keeping it boiling. More than once, the pan boils over and makes a mess of the hob. The recipe says boil for 15 mins but I easily leave it for double that to ensure it has boiled enough. Whilst this is happening, I wash the jars I am going to use and place in the oven to sterilise.
1pm - I finally add the sugar and start to stir, to dissolve it. It takes about 15 mins of stirring to dissolve the sugar completely and I turn up the heat again. Obviously now, there is even more in the pan and boiling over is an even greater likelihood. I resolve to watch the pan but yanno, I have things to do and I'd already made and let two cups of tea go cold. Again, the recipe says boil for 15 mins before starting to test for a set but it keeps boiling up, I have to take the lid off or risking it boiling onto the hob, then take the lid off and it stops boiling. I then double - again - the length of time I need to leave it cook because of this, and also because I have to keep skimming the scum off the top, which means leaving the lid off.
2pm (ish) - it looks like I could start testing for a set but the first couple of goes show it needs to cook for longer. At least the jars will be well sterilised by now - they've been in the oven for nearly an hour and a half, but only need about 15 mins. Finally, the test shows it's starting to set, so I leave it a few minutes to go and make an important call because I'd had someone on the phone hassling me about something.
The call takes a bit longer than planned but no more than about 5 mins and I go back into the kitchen and OMG! Boiling over is probably a euphemism for what has occurred - there is a river of jam on my hob. The lid was on, wasn't it?
2.30pm (less than an hour till school run) - I hastily put all the jam into jars, and start the process of clearing up the hob, the burners, everything and bunging anything that is removable into the dishwasher. After a LOT of scrubbing and scraping, I finally get the hob clean.
|Lots and lots and lots of jam.|
I noticed that the jam recipe says it takes an hour to make. Ha, I started at 10 and finished past 3. I make that 5 hours (although admittedly, the recipe doesn't expect you to pick your own first!) and counting. As my plan was to make jam AND chocolate cake during the day whilst the children were out, my evening was somewhat filled with cake making and icing.
Next time, I will make smaller batches of jam though most of the recipes online seem to use the amount of blackcurrants that I had. Maybe I just need special jam-making equipment. Or maybe I just need to concentrate more.