Put bluntly, jam is not cake. It doesn’t behave like cake and it can seem a bit of a dark art. If you follow a recipe and bake a cake chances are it will work. Jam requires more judgement. However, a tree heaving with damsons and a shiny new maslin pan meant I was more than up for the challenge:
A little perseverance and you get these:
Which are full of this:
Ingredients: (reduce or increase based on how much fruit you have, but always in this ratio)
900g damsons (stoned)
700g caster sugar (if you can get jam sugar – that is sugar with pectin, you’ll get a more reliable set)
How to make:
-Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan oven/350°F/Gas Mark 4
-Put 3 small plates or bowls in the freezer. These are needed to test if you have a ‘set’.
-Tip the sugar into a bowl and place it in the oven.
-Simmer the fruit and water and let cook for 30 minutes until the fruit is soft and breaking up.
-Give it the odd stir but mainly, just let it do its stuff on its own.
-Add the hot sugar and stir in. Feel very happy at the first jam-type smells wafting up from the pan.
-Leave, on a low heat, for 15 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. If in doubt plunge a wooden spoon into the mix and then study the back of the spoon – any granules mean the sugar has not dissolved.
-Turn the heat up to the max and boil the jam for 10 minutes. It will spit and bubble like mad and you will realise that your kitchen will need a thorough clean when you’ve finished.
-Turn the heat off. Spoon some mix onto one of the frozen plates and let cool. Push the jam with your finger – if it crinkles it’s set. If not boil for 5 more minutes. Test again. Keep doing until the jam has set. Don’t panic if you need to boil for much longer – I find that sometimes my jam sets after the first attempt, other times I can have to boil for a further 20 minutes.
-Turn the heat off and let stand for 15 minutes. Remove any scum from the surface. While you’re letting the jam cool slightly, put the jars into the oven for 5 minutes or so. If you put the hot jam into cool jars they could shatter.
-Pour the jam into the jars. I find a ladle gives the best control. Fill jars to the top and screw lids on. Don’t put anything like wax paper discs between the jam and lid – it’s not necessary.
-Don’t be scared when, as the jam cools, the lids ‘pop’. This is the vacuum happening – you know when you unscrew a new jar you get that pop as the air gets in? Well this is why that happens. Even though I’m warning you not to be scared, it stills makes me jump about 8 foot in the air when the first lid ‘pops’.
-Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.