Two Summer Jam's - Apricot & Plum
It has been a relatively cool start to the summer season down here in this part of the world. The earth has been soaking up the heavy raindrops, much to the delight of my veggie garden which has tripled in size this past week. It seems that the surrounding stonefruit trees that are dotted about our neighbours' yards have also been relishing in the liquid gifts from above too.
From our kitchen window the long "claw-like" leaves of a nectarine tree sway in the breeze, revealing the ruby cheeks of the juicy gems that hang from their branches. At the forefront is an apricot tree, to the right is a peach and from over the top of the chooks yard there sits a tree that looks as though it could topple over any moment with the weight of the small rounds that are the colour of midnight.
It is around this time that we receive a precious bounty from our neighbours on the high side. A box of blushing apricots, followed days later by another haul accompanied with a bundle of plums cradled into a makeshift newspaper pouch. My eyes were delighted as were all of our tummies - I think we may have eaten our weight in them already. They are by far my favourite fruit.
What has not been eaten fresh has been bottled up and now sits on my preserving shelf (which is nothing more than a space carved out in amongst the folders and files in the study) It is these jars of spreadable sweetness that make me happy and that I so enjoy gifting. Wrapping each one up with a piece of twine, a little label and a sprig of something fragrant.
I love knowing that it will inevitably be spread on to hot buttered toast, providing comfort with each luscious mouthful, washed down, of course, with a cup of something hot. Because no matter what the days bring, there is always time for tea and toast.
Apricot & Rosemary Jam
Makes 4-5 medium-sized jars
a large sprig of rosemary
Cut each apricot in half and remove the stone. Place the apricots into a large pot along with the water and bring to the boil. Allow them to bubble away happily for 20 minutes or so until they have softened making sure to stir every now and then. Strip the leaves from the rosemary and chop them finely, add these to the apricots along with the sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Return to a boil and let it once again happily bubble away, adjusting the heat if necessary. Stir frequently as you do not want to end up with a pot that has burnt bits stuck to the bottom, it doesn't make for a fun clean up!
While this is all happening, select your jars and matching lids and place them into a sink full of hot water. Pop them onto a baking tray and place into the oven at about 150 degrees to dry out, this is the way I sterilise my jars and also allows for the jars to be super hot so that they are ready to pour the hot jam into them.
After about 20 - 30 minutes your jam should be quite thick and should fall off the spoon a bit like lava. If you want to you can place a small plate into the freezer and then once its cold take it out and drop a little of the jam in the centre and then return it back to the freezer for a moment before running your finger down through the middle of it, if it leaves a mark down the middle your jam is ready to be poured into the jars, if not just continue to cook, but do keep an eye on it as it is at this stage that it can very easily go from being perfect to burnt within the click of a finger!
Once you are happy that it is ready, pour into the jars, tightly seal each one and turn upside down for a couple of minutes before turning the right way up once again. Leave them on the bench to cool and then store in a cool place. Once opened, store in the fridge.
Plum, ginger and orange jam
makes 3-4 medium jars
a thumb-size piece of ginger
one long strand of orange peel
300g raw caster sugar
Cut the plums in half and remove their stones, place them into a large pot along with the water and allow them to come to the boil. Let them bubble away happily for about 20 minutes or until they have softened. Stir through the grated ginger and the peel of the orange followed by the sugars and stir until dissolved. Bring it back to the boil and allow to cook, while stirring frequently for at least 40 minutes until thickened. You can always use the freezer plate test as mentioned above to make sure.
Pour into hot sterilised jars and follow the method above.
Always be extra careful when handling jam, it can spit and splutter when you stir it, especially towards the end when it is almost ready and a hot jam splatter on your hands or arms really does hurt! And clean your pots and pans and spoons as soon as you can, dried jam takes a fair bit of elbow grease to remove. I always fill my pots with water and allow the jug and spoon to have a bit of a swim around in there as well to make for an easier cleanup.