At this time of year the forest garden is beginning to burgeon with top fruit.
|Asian pear, apple with perennial kale and comfrey as undercover|
We like making jams and chutneys to give as presents and for our larder. The first fruits to come are plums, closely followed by Oulin's Golden gage, an exquisitely juicy fruit. I usually pick early in the morning when the fruit is soft and before the wasps are too active*. Making plum or gage jam couldn't be easier.
Ingredients: 4.6 lbs (2 kg) plums 1 pint (570 ml) water 4.6 lbs (2 kg) sugar
juice of half a lemon
Method: Wash and wipe the plums. Make sure they are not too ripe and are dry and cut out any wasp damage. Over ripe fruit lacks pectin and acid, wet fruit can make the final jam go mouldy in the jar. Cut in halves (or thirds if you don't like too many lumps). Put into a pan with the water and simmer gently until the fruit is soft. This extracts the pectin and acid from the fruit. Add the sugar, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly until the jam sets when tested, removing the stones as they rise to the top. Add the butter to prevent scum.
You'll know if the jam is set either by testing with a jam thermometer or by taking a teaspoonful and allowing to cool. If when cool a skin forms on the surface when you draw your finger across it, the jam is set. Pot and seal while still hot. Makes around 6.6 lbs (3 kg) of jam.
Nothing compares to the taste and colour of home made jam!
I use the same recipe for golden gage jam but because the gages were mostly very ripe, I added the juice of one lemon to help it set.
* If we have left it too late to pick and wasps are abundant or I am picking for a tall tree, I use a Burgeon and Ball apple picker. This is a really useful tool, especially if you have taller root stocks. It saves clambering around with a step ladder, speeds up picking and prevents wasp stings as well. They cost £19.95 inc p&p. For me, this tool will quickly pay for itself but if you are handy you could easily make a DIY version from a broom handle, by weaving heavy duty wire (coat hangers?) into a basket form, putting a bit of foam in the bottom to cushion the fruit and attaching to the handle with a jubilee clip. If you make one please tell me what you used and send a picture of it. I'd like to post your design here to encourage others who want to make their own.