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Less Partridges, More Pears – Yet Another Holiday Jam

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We’re moving up the ranks of interesting to the second of my four Christmas jams today (if you didn’t catch my strawberry jam run down you can find it here). What is this mystery slightly-more-interesting jam? Pear and Vanilla of course!

Pear and vanilla is J’s favourite fruit and spice combo as you all know, and it resonates very much with the holiday season for us, since it was the flavour of the cake I made for our first Christmas together. This jam riffs pretty directly off of that recipe and thus as far as interesting goes this is not a super unfamiliar combo, but it’s still a step away from the traditional standard berry combinations you find in jams at the supermarket.

I think it’s pretty important to develop and keep food traditions. When you think about it, so many of our food associations and memories come from repetition: tea when times get tough, chocolate pudding at a gathering, creamy rice on a cold winter’s night, flummery (a.k.a. in my family ‘amamfa’) on a hot summer’s day. I sometimes feel guilty just repeating the same recipes and combinations over and over, like I should be exploring and discovering and broadening and all those other things, but then I remember just how much I like those recipes and combinations. And each time they’re repeated they just get more and more meaning and feeling.

A summer time jam in a summer time garden

In the US they’d call this a jelly rather than a jam, since it’s made using only the juice of the fruit rather than the whole thing. I’ve based this off of a recipe for apple jelly from here, with a few alterations.

So anyway, first thing’s first, assemble your ingredients:


1.75-2kg of pears

5 cups of water

2.5 cups of sugar

1 lemon’s worth of juice

1 vanilla bean

Some pectin (I used some Jamsetta, about 1 tbsp or a little less)

As for your method:


Wash your pears and chop them up into chunks, removing the stalks.

Boil them up with the water for about 45 minutes at least, until they’re quite soft.

Then you need to strain all the juice out of them. I improvised a set up using a bowl, a sieve, a colander, a clean tea towel, a plate, and a bottle of water. Give it at least 3 hours.

I ended up with about 3 cups of juice. Whack that back in your pot with the lemon and vanilla bean (split down the middle) and bring it up to the boil.

Pop a little plate in the freezer about now.

Mix the sugar with your pectin then stir it in nice and quickly, making sure you haven’t got any lumps of pectin.

Cook that until you can put a little bit of it on your frozen plate and it sets to form a loose jam consistency.


Now put that jam in your jars and you’ll want to waterbath process them so you can store them out of the fridge.

Yay for new nostalgia!

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Home-made Strawberry Jam for Christmas

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Home-made Strawberry Jam for Christmas

So, in the lead-up to Christmas I decided to try and make some of my own gifts. I feel terribly virtuous saving on all sorts of things, money, packaging, you name it.  And of course food makes some of the best gifts (in short – it’s fun then it’s gone).  I did some easy things like vanilla sugar and vanilla essence (did I mention I obtained a heap of vanilla beans?). But then, the silly fool I am, I had to do something more challenging – jam.

An assortment of jams

I’ve made four types of jam now, all ready to be prettied up as gifts for Christmas. And although I’m sure you’re all keen to hear about the more adventurous ones, I’m gonna start with a classic.

Strawberry Jam

My little strawberry patch has been mentioned before around here, and this year it’s producing better than ever. And what better thing to make home-made strawberry jam with than home-made strawberries? It’s double domestic!

The recipe I used is a bog standard one, I’m not sure exactly where it originally came from, but I’ve found pretty much exactly the same one at a tonne of different sites.

So you start out with three cups or so of strawberries. A lot of recipes out there for strawberry jam will ask you to sit the washed and cut strawberries with however much sugar you’re using overnight. This is called macerating them, and its basic function is to break down the cell walls of the strawberries so that all the juice comes out. I didn’t do this though because I’ve been just harvesting a handful of strawberries a day, washing and chopping them, and popping them in the freezer ’til I had enough. Freezing the strawberries also breaks down their cell walls as ice crystals form inside them, so macerating them isn’t necessary any more.

At this point you’ll want to pop a little plate into the freezer so it can get nice and cold. Well use that later. It’s now too that I put my jars in a pot to boil away and get all nice and sterile.

Now put your thawed/macerated strawberries in a wide pan with a cup of sugar and the juice of half a lemon.

Cook cook cook on medium-almost-high heat for ten minutes, and if any scum forms skim it off with a spoon. It’s not dangerous or bad or anything, it just doesn’t look very pretty.

After ten minutes get out your little plate from the freezer and put a little blob of your jam on it. Give it thirty seconds then run your finger through it. If it’s the texture of (thinnish) jam, hurray, you’re done! If it’s not really congealing at all and just seems like a syrup – that’s what it is. Pop the plate back in the freezer and keep cooking for five more minutes then try again.

Now’s the time to put the super hot jam into jars. Try not to splash little drops on your fiancé’s face – they don’t like that. Also try not to put more in a jar than there is space in said jar – not recommended.

Overflowing strawberry jam

Alright, alright. Your jam is in your jars, you’ve wiped any spills off the rims and put the lids on. Now what do you do? You’ve got two options. The safer, more widely preferred and recommended thing to do is to water bath process your jam (instructions and info here). The lazier, more risky, way is to pour the jam in when it’s still really super hot, screw on the lid nice and tight and then quickly flipping the jar upside down for five minutes. This is the one I chose. I’ve got my reasons, but you probably shouldn’t do it this way.

And voila! Jam!

Short Version:

Ingredients

3 cups of washed, hulled and very roughly chopped strawberries

1 cup sugar

Juice of half a lemon

Method

Put a small plate in the freezer and sterilise your jars.

Put everything in a wide pan.

Cook on medium-almost-high heat for 10 minutes, skimming any scum that forms.

Put a small blob of your mixture onto your little plate to check the consistency. If it’s still runny, cook for 5 more minutes then try again. If it seems like the consistency of a loose jam you’re done cooking.

Pour your jam into your jars and process.