How Not to Make Jam

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I fear my Jam making mojo has left me this summer. Last year I had it down to a swift process. I spread it over two nights just to keep boiling sugar away from little hands. I even gave each batch labels and names. This year I tried unsuccessfully to preserve in a series of one night stands. As I stirred I dreamed of fantastic names for each. I was looking forward to “Over the Fence Scramble Plume Paste” and “Secret Recipe Blackberry Cordial”. So far my attempts have resulted in great tasting, but not entirely successful results. I’m only sharing my woes in the name of a greater cause, or more specifically, so that you can read my errors in horror and not repeat them.

1 – Do not attempt to preserve when children are sick
Do not juggle fruit paste at the very delicate point between just right and burning when you are likely to be interrupted by vomiting. Sick children can sometimes mean lots of sleeping. It can also mean needing a lot of help at very, very, short notice. It sounds like something only an idiot would try and I would have to be that idiot. I thought I was set with both kids in bed at 6 and an evening to myself. The sleep lasted 45 minutes before the vomiting began. I can tell you that Miss H’s mewling “Mummy, cuddle please” gives only a 2 second warning that she is about to throw up. Everywhere. But thankfully, not in the preserving pan. The fruit paste is a little on the chewy, overcooked side but not entirely due to the children – see below.

2- Do not attempt to preserve while watching TV
Much the same as above, only and idiot would try it. There was much stopping and washing down of burnt, sugary, pastey pots. Fruit paste takes a long time to reduce, but this doesn’t equate to a long unattended time, even if you are cuddling children on the couch. It did mean I got to see Graham Norton interview Cher. Not exactly life changing, so next time I really will turn it off.

3 – There is a lot of sugar in that stuff
I had an arcane view that sugar couldn’t get any more concentrated that it is in the bag. After boiling down 1.5 kg of sugar into the size of a very small Tupperware container I know I was wrong. While consuming fruit pastes – consider applying the paste straight to your hips, because that where it is going.

4 – Don’t start until you have all the utensils ready
Just because you think you saw the funnel in the bottom cupboard, doesn’t mean it will be there when you go looking for it. Don’t be tempted to use the kids’ bath toys either. In my short lived attempt to make blackberry cordial, the funnel was nowhere to be found at the crucial moment. I thought I was very wise to turn off the pan before driving to get a funnel from a friend. Possibly even wiser to stop for a cup of tea. Then I smugly reboiled the mix before bottling it. I now have three bottles of blackberry jelly. It’s tricky to get out of the bottle, but heaven on ice-cream.

There you have it. The sad and sorry tale of how “Over the Fence Scramble Plume Paste” became “Chewy Night in Front of the Telly Plum Paste” and “Secret Recipe blackberry Cordial” became simply ice-cream topping.

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