What glorious jam making goodies!
Wont be long now before the jam making session starts in earnest, thank goodness. I was outside yesterday examining the buds on my blackcurrant bush to see how many fruits I’d got. Looks like its going to be a good year so far. Can’t wait to get my hands on the elder flowers and early goosegogs though. That really heralds the start of it all.
Meanwhile, I was walking through the supermarket the other day cursing how the pears were more like mortar shells than anything you could use for jam making, when my eyes alighted on – yes you’ve guessed it – this beautiful rhubarb. Whats more at a fiver for 2lb, in today’s madness, I thought it was a bit of a bargain. Of course the obvious candidate was rhubarb and ginger, so I picked up the other ingredients and scuttled home for some real end of session jam making.
What did strike me though was why does the old rhubarb and ginger jam always look a bit brown and caramelised. After all, that winter strained champagne stuff is so bright pink you would think you’d be able to capture the colour really easily. Well my hunch is that all that soaking the rhubarb in the sugar business that you see in most recipes is the culprit. Why not use the standard jam making technique, I thought to myself, and see if I can keep the colour.
So armed with plenty of acid to fix the colour, I gently simmered the rhubarb in the juice of 2 lemons and just enough water to wet the bottom of the pan until it was total mush. To be more accurate about it, I let it simmer for 45 minutes with a lid tightly on, putting the finely chopped ginger in after about half an hour. A quick colour check - so far so good, still beautifully pink!
Now I suppose before I get shouted at and the electronic equivalent of rotten tomatoes hurled at me, I ought to give all you folks who like it, an exact list of ingredients, so:
For Rhubarb & Ginger Jam making four 8oz jars, you need:
- 2lb Forced Rhubarb, pinker the better
- 3lb Sugar
- 1oz Fresh Root Ginger
- 2 Lemons
My next thought was naturally for pectin. Specifically, would my technique of boiling the fruit first, as with normal jam making, have released enough to produce a good set. Out with the trusty methylated spirits and shot glass and to my relief and somewhat surprise the pectin level was really high.
For those of your who are not familiar with this test when jam making, you can go to my blog post on the subject to read about it in detail. But basically you take a small quantity of the test fruit liquor, put it in a shot glass, once cool cover it with an inch of methylated spirits and the snottier the liquor goes the more pectin there is in it – simples! If you get a result as below, then that is high on the snot-o-meter and there is plenty of pectin present. The other end of the scale would see the liquor remain totally liquid meaning the total absence of pectin.
With pectin check good, all that remained was to add the sugar, bring to a rolling boil and test for set after five minutes, on a saucer that had been in the freezer for five minutes (another tip, what would you do without me – lol!). I have to say the set was unsurprisingly very good, but of course if you do have difficulties, normally adding a third more sugar and boiling for another five or ten minutes will do the trick.
Problem is though, it will also knock out all that gorgeous colour. You see the secret of jam making is to extract as much pectin as possible as gently as possible in the fruit boiling stage and then really quickly boil up with the sugar to gain the set, so as to loose as little colour as possible, as this is the stage where it will disappears.
And so there we are, after a spot of judicious de-scumming, having let the mixture cool for a few minutes, all that was left was the jarring up. Well it was such a magnificent colour even I, the philistine that I’m am, couldn’t just stick it in plain one pound jars. And in any case it’s far to good to give away in those kind of quantities. So I thought, I’ll sterilise a few of the fancy jars I told you I’d acquired the other day and put it in them.
The perfect match just had to be the so called “Gourmet Food Jars” from Wares. Their fancy blue gingham tops went so well with the smokey pink of the jam making a real eye catching gift. In fact that’s a great idea I think I’ll give a pot to my mother for her birthday on Sunday. I’m just on my way down to open up the boat for the summer and attend her birthday lunch at the yacht club – weather permitting of course!
Homemade jam making at it’s finest – if I say so myself!
Just a little foot note – I like to speak as I find and I was a little concerned how “them fancy lookin’ jars” would hold up in the steriliser, and I have to say I’ve got no complaints. In fact not only did the paint on the lids hold up beautifully, but I also tried wiping one, while still red hot, with a cold damp cloth just to see, and there was no cracking. So I reckon they are a mighty fine product.