june’s jam

june’s fig jam 

Whenever someone asks me where I learned to cook, I tend to respond with ‘trial and error’. And while there has certainly been many many trials and a few errors along the way, this doesn’t really fill in the whole picture. You see June, my wonderful mum, was and is a fabulous cook. So it was really under her guidance that my cooking education began at home.

It’s funny that when you grow up in a house with a good cook at the helm that you really have no idea how good things are. In my school lunchbox there were always freshly made sandwiches and homemade ‘patty’ cakes or lamingtons. And there was always dessert after dinner: a healthy fruit salad or mum’s much loved lemon meringue pie….bliss

When I went to boarding school my eyes were opened to just how ordinary food can be. And while I have blocked out most of the horrific food memories, I can still remember my first taste of jam out of a bulk can….sweet but totally lacking in any fruit flavour…it made me instantly homesick for a kitchen where the jam was made with love and packed with flavour.

To this day, I still think that my mum makes the best jam ever and whenever I go home I love to choose a few special bottles from the jam cupboard. The difficult thing is trying to decide: home grown berri-licious strawberry? intense wild blackberry all the sweeter for having to avoid the thorns when you pick the fruit? succulent plum from my cousin’s gnarly old blood plum tree? or the latest addition a chunky green fig? Impossible to pick really, so I tend to count myself very lucky and take one of each…all good things…

june’s basic jam recipe

This recipe works for most berries and stone fruit. It’s better to use fruit that is slightly on the under ripe side as it will have a higher pectin content which helps the jam to set.

The cooking time really depends on how ripe your fruit is and how large a batch you are making.

It’s important to fill and seal your jars while the jam is hot to make sure everything is sterile and to gain the added protection of the jars pulling a vacuum as the hot jam cools and shrinks.

1lb (or 500g) fruit: blackberries or plums
3/4lb (or 375g) sugar
juice 1/2 lemon

Wash fruit and place in a saucepan. For plums or larger stone fruit, destone and cut into chunks after washing. Add a small amount of sugar and place over a high heat, squashing to extract some juice. gradually add remaining sugar and bring to the boil.

Simmer for 2 – 4 hours until the jam sets when tested**. Divide hot jam between clean glass bottles that have been sterilised in the dishwasher and seal immediately. Store in a cool dark place.

** To test for setting take a small spoonful of jam and place it on a saucer. Sit in the freezer for approx 5 mins or until cold. The jam will form a skin and wrinkle when touched when it is done.

june’s fig jam

Fig jam is a relatively recent addition to my mum’s repertoire. This year she used green figs but like all of us is on the lookout for a free black fig supply.

6lb (3kg) figs
4lb (2kg) sugar
1/2C white vinegar

Top and tail figs and chop into chunks. Add sugar and leave to stand overnight.

Bring to the boil and cook briskly for 2 – 3hrs or until jam sets when tested (see note above). Divide hot jam between clean glass bottles that have been sterilised in the dishwasher and seal immediately. Store in a cool dark place.

june’s jam: fig, plum & blackberry (left to right)

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