As we are all aware Christmas is right around the corner. We hope you are readying yourself for the festivities. If you still haven’t got to the shops yet because you are very busy, or like us avoiding them like the plague, or maybe you just want to add the final touches to a gift but are not quite sure what with. You might even be sitting in your kitchen stressing about what to give your nearest and dearest over a nice piece of toast?
Then a thought comes into your head, “Jam!” you cry! “Yes, I will buy them all a pot of jam.”
No, that’s no good. Make it! Twice as fun and twice as thoughtful, AND cheaper. Better still you can finally use all those old jars. Maybe we are just hoarders of old jars, but we have loads, so were very glad to put them all to good use.
So in the name of being a little stingy and a little creative we think that it is totally appropriate to make people homemade jam for Christmas, yes Mum, that is what you are getting. Sorry to spoil the surprise. (There may also be other things, but we like to keep a little mystery.)
Lets talk seasonal fruit. It’s pretty late in the year for many fruits, we don’t really like to buy from the supermarket, as they normally come in a plastic tub or it is too far out of season, so strawberries were off the cards. I really like strawberry. Never mind. Plums are great too. Well that is all the green grocer really had so there we go. Decision made. Organic too, bonus. Our local green grocers only get in fruit at its best, the way it should be. (We are always very happy to see when it is mango season, they are just delicious.) Also supporting local business is nice to do.
So go and get yourself a bag of plumbs or if you really like flying your fruit in from miles away, what ever you fancy. Either way, you will be wanting some fruit. Don’t forget to take your own re-usable bags to carry it all home in. Down with plastic bags.
Get about a kilo to make it worth your while. This made us about 10 jars worth, all different shapes and sizes. Then, go to another shop and get some sugar. Loads of the stuff. As it turns out, there is a lot of it in jam, hard to imagine until you see it all being poured in for yourself, but it is Christmas after all. We deserve it.
Back to the sugar, you will need about a one to one ratio plums to sugar. The ripper the fruit, the less sugar that you need as the fruit will be sweeter in its self. Try and make the sugar organic if you can and definitely make it fair trade, that goes without saying.
Ok, so now you have your tasty organic fruit and good for the growers sugar, you can make that fab sticky stuff for your toast.
Weigh your plums. Ours weighed a kilo. Remember this number. Cut your plums in half and chuck the stones into the composter. Or not, the choice is yours. You probably should though. Put all the flesh in a great big pan and splash a little bit of water over them, turn on the heat, get them up to a gentle simmer, turn the heat down, put a lid on the pan then leave it to do its thing. Have a cup of tea. (Fair trade, of course)
Come back and give the fruit a really gentle stir every ten mins, you don’t want to break the fruit up all that much. Its all about the chunky jam. Do this for about 40 odd mins and you are ready for the next step.
Now remember how you weighed out that fruit before you started to cook it? Weigh out the same amount of sugar. A little less if your fruit was really ripe. Tip the sugar into the pan, bit by bit, stirring all of the time. The sugar needs to fully dissolve into the fruit.
If you go over the saturation point the mixture will go grainy. Don’t panic. Just boil a kettle and stick a bit of water in there until it dissolves. Then, (this is where we turn into a bit of a fancy pants) crush up a load of black pepper, seriously, quite a lot. You should have some knocking around in the cupboard, and if you are that way inclined, chuck a finely chopped up chilli in there too. It is good. Do it. Use a hot one like a scotch bonnet and it will give a wicked kick to your jam. It wont blow your head off but it is enough to be noticed. (Maybe take the seeds out, unless you are one of those total people that ruins your night out, by trying to show off ordering yourself the Vindaloo instead of the Korma you really wanted.)
Now, loads of people on the internet were talking about thermometers at this point but we don’t have one and it worked out just fine. Keep boiling the jam for a good ten mins and it should be good to go. Nice and sticky, getting thick. Perfect.
Get yourself a little plate and pop it in the freezer for two mins. Take it out when its super cold and spoon a little of the mixture onto it. After a minute to set then run your finger through it. It should all wrinkle up, setting onto the plate and looking like it will turn into jam. Trust you instincts.
Now to sterilised the jars. Wash them out in hot soapy water, then stick them in the oven on a tray at 150 degrees C to dry out. Do this with the lids too. Unless they are the fancy pants Kilner jars with rubber seals. (Boil these, the oven will dry them out and bugger them.)
Now, being really, really careful (Molten jam is hotter than lava and the surface of the sun combined, you have been warned) tip a load of your mixture into a heat proof jug then carefully decant the mixture into your jars. Seal them up tight and put them to one side.
To finish the jam off you will need to boil the jars to make the little vacuum poppy things on the top of the lid pop down. We only have one big pot and we just made a right sticky mess of it. Wash your one big pot up, fill it with water and bring this to the boil. Place your nice new filled up jam jars in the boiling water and boil them for about ten minutes. This will air seal the jars and help your jam keep for much longer. Don’t ask us how this happens, it just does. You will hear it happen after you remove them. Pop.
After you have finished and you are all proud of yourself, maybe just slightly annoyed that you have been wasting your money buying the stuff for so long, when you could have been making it. Finish them off by cleaning the jars and making some pretty labels. We covered the tops in a bit of fabric to give them that quintessential handmade look, using some old scraps of fabric which came in really handy, and some twine for securing it down.
And there you go. Plum and Pepper jam. Banging christmas pressies. You’re welcome. Trust us, this combo is a winner.
Plums (or any fruit) – 1 Kilo
Sugar – 1 kilo
Pepper – 20 – 30 corns
Scotch Bonnet Chilli – 1
(We also added a few mulled wine spices as we had them from last year)
Let us know if you have made any of your own gifts. We would love to know if we have inspired you to give this recipe a go. Wishing you all a very merry Christmas!!
Love Josh and Lottie,
(Disclaimer Josh is the genius behind this recipe and also the lovely pictures)
Into The Eco xx