Monday, 17 October 2011

Day 108: The Jam Begins

Woohoo!  Friend Claire came round tonight, and we have embarked on the Bramble and Apple Jelly!  The first part of the process is complete, and we are feeling highly pleased with ourselves.

The great thing is that, apart from the sugar, this foodstuff is entirely free.  The brambles which have been lurking in my freezer for a month were combined with an equal quantity of apples, some donated by a neighbour of Friend Claire, and some very kindly supplied by Friend Julie from the vast quantities her Victorian garden has been producing this harvest.  As Friend Claire and I observed, while stirring our pot of rich, deeply-purple, aromatic fruit, there is a peculiar delight involved where the food is not only free, but moreover, has been harvested by our own fair hands.  My highly rationalist scientist friend was even heard to mutter slightly sheepishly, that without getting too New Age-y about it, the whole process did somehow put us more in touch with our food.

We have been following this recipe which we found online.  The quantities listed here handily matched almost exactly the amount of brambles we had - it turns out that we had managed to pick just over 2lb on our foraging trip.  The link also contains some very useful advice for sterilising jars, cloths, etc, so we have been following it pretty closely.

Improvisation rocks!
On a practical level, we have managed so far without specialist equipment.  Not having a jam pan, my large heavy-bottomed stock pot is doing the job fine.  We also have not been able to borrow a jelly bag, so we have improvised with a large linen tea towel.  Learning from my rosehip syrup success, we placed the tea towel in a metal sieve over a baking bowl.  We ladled the bramble mixture carefully into the teatowel, and then tied the opposite corners of the tea towel firmly together.  We then removed the sieve and suspended the tea towel from an old mop handle which we have laid across the backs of two chairs, with the baking bowl on the floor to catch the liquid. It will stay there overnight.  So far it seems to be working well, though I suspect the tea towel will never recover.  I also have little hope of the decarnadination of the wooden spoon.

Friend Claire is coming round tomorrow in the early evening so that we can complete the process.  We could perhaps have done the whole thing in one night had we been prepared to squeeze the juice through the bag - but according to Mother, that is the surest route to (horrors!) a cloudy jelly.  Therefore we are giving it the time it needs.  We think we have enough jars - a mottly collection of there ever was one - but I need to buy in some sugar and some of these little wax disks.  I remember helping Mother with this stage often enough, so hopefully all the necessary techniques will come flooding back from the deep recesses of my memory. 

What I am currently loving about this frugality project is that I am truly learning new skills - or relearning old ones.  I have watched jam-making often enough, and been involved in the various stages, but I have never seen the whole process through myself.  And to make the project even more enjoyable, it has meant some days-out-with-a-difference with Friend Claire in particular.  Where last year we would have been eating out or sitting in the cinema, this time we are doing things.  And this is a good thing.

1 comment:

Sylvie Thredds said...

I gave up on wax discs and cellophane tops for my jam jars years ago.
I use ordinary screw-top jars. I sterilize/warm the jars and the tops in a low oven, fill them to the brim with the hot jam, screw the top on tightly and invert them immediately. Leave them upside down until they are cold.
The jam keeps very well (I've just used a jar made in 2003!) although it can be a bit messy around the rim, so isn't much use for showing or selling.