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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Friday, January 14, 2005

Jam crazy!

I have gone seriously crazy in the last week making jam! Real jam. Proper jam. Greengage plums. Figs. Nectarines. Standing over a huge pot of bubbling volcanic lava jam and burning my arms. And you know what? I really don't even eat jam! Sure, I like it enough but I never have it on toast for breakfast. I don't like a sugar injection in the morning, and much prefer salty, savoury flavours, which makes it really difficult to find something quick to eat. Have you noticed that every type of breakfast food is sugary and sweet? Nigella says that she has a boiled egg (imported from Italy...lah di dah!) and toast every morning, which sounds like a great idea in theory, but I know what I'm like in the morning, and I'm lucky to get out of the house with both shoes done up! As making a cooked breakfast every morning is out of the question, I tend towards toast with Vegemite for my morning salt hit. If anyone has any suggestions for savoury, quick breakfast foods, that aren't necessarily toast-based then I'd be so grateful.
But anyway...I had a huge number of plums from my grandmother's backyard trees and it was suggested that, as I have time on my hands this summer, that I make jam. I pointed out that I had never done such a thing and was a little afraid of jam-making, as my childhood experience of my mother making jam involves a memory of boiling hot jam boiling out of the pot and sticking all over the cooktop, stubbornly resistant to be cleaned, and my mother claiming in exasperation that she would never make jam again. So, you can understand my hesitance!
I was also a bit scared of the whole "setting-point" instructions (methylated spirits?!?!) and the need for cleaned, sterilised jars. Yaaaawn...."just make a cake", I would think. So, after making this jam making decision I armed myself with an array of cookery books. When I hit full throttle I had three cookbooks on the go, vying for attention with the boiling, sputtering liquid. Two telling me how to make the jam and check setting point and one (Nigella) telling me how to sterilise jars in the microwave (cos there was no chance I was spending hours sterilising jars in an oven...I mean, I like to think I have a life!).
I used a combination of Stephanie Alexander's fantastic "Cook's Companion" instructions for Apricot Jam, and the Australian Women's Weekly 1970s cookbook (from where I found my cornflake cookie recipe) for general technique. A great tip from Stephanie was to crack open the pip of the plum or apricot and remove the small kernal. What an incredible smell they had! It was just like a combination of Kirsch or Amaretto! Amazing! So, they were chopped up and added to the mixture to add their flavour.
All up, I now have over 20
jars of jam for which I will have to find owners! I have Greengage plum, fig & plum and nectarine & plum jams...all of which taste wonderful, and sweet. Well, actually I'm not so fond of the fig & plum, but I'm sure there are people out there who love a strong fig taste and to have big chunks of fig in their jam...some people do... But the plum and nectarine is a triumph of jam-making. I'd be proud to have that represent me at any church market stall!
Luckily I have a boyfriend who loves jam, but even he will be hard pressed to get through 20 jars. I think I'll be playing a belated Santa Claus to family and friends for a little while!


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