Getting caught up in all that cockney business a couple of weeks back meant we missed British Jam Week. To make up for it, we’re using today’s Thursday foodie slot for a little feature on fruit preserves and a classic recipe for strawberry jam. There’s little we love more than a thick slice of white toast, generously buttered with this spooned over the top – perfect with a cup of tea!
Jam appears in the very first known recipe back, “Of Culinary Matters”, penned by the great Roman gastronome Marcus Gavius Apicius in the first century AD. It’s thought to have taken off in Europe following the Spanish arrival in the West Indies, where fruit preservation had long existed.
They remained an aristocratic luxury for most of the remainder of the millennium, with Louis XIV a particular fan: he insisted that all banquets ended with fruit preserves served in silver dishes. Jams made their way to England in the Tudor period, with quince and medlar being too popular flavors. Sucket was a highly prized preserve that took things one step further, combining rich candied peel with jam.
Marmalade is jam of the orange variety and is a little more of an acquired taste. Sadly, its consumption is in drastic decline back in Britain. One explanation of the unusual name is that Mary Queen of Scots was served a rudimentary version to help overcome a crippling vitamin C deficiency. In this telling, the name is a shortened version of ‘Mary, my Lady’.
When buying jam, the fruit content should be as high as possible, at least 55g per 100g. Our all-time favorite shop-bought jam is from Fortnum & Mason. Chunks of high-quality fruit that keep their dignity in a perfectly sweet liquor, just as it should be. Definitely worth a detour when next in London!
Here’s a very straightforward recipe from Angela Nilsen and the BBC Good Food Guide. And just you try and tell us that picture doesn’t make your mouth water:
900g fruit (blackberries, plums, raspberries or strawberries), prepared weight
900g golden granulated sugar
knob of butter
- Put the fruit into a preserving pan or large heavy-based saucepan. For blackberries, add 50ml of water and 1½ tbsp of lemon juice; for plums (halved and stoned), use 150ml of water; for strawberries, add 3 tbsp of lemon juice (no water); and for raspberries, add nothing. Bring to the boil.
- Lower the heat. For blackberries, simmer for 15 minutes; for plums, simmer for 30-40 minutes; for raspberries, simmer for 2 minutes; for strawberries, simmer for 5 minutes. The fruit should be soft.
- Tip in the sugar, stir over a very low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Raise the heat, bring to a full rolling boil, then rapidly boil blackberries for 10-12 minutes, plums for 10 minutes, raspberries for 5 minutes or strawberries for 20-25 minutes – don’t stir though – until the setting point of 105C is reached.
- Remove from the heat, skim off any excess scum, then stir a knob of butter across the surface (this helps to dissolve any remaining scum). Leave for about 15 mins so the fruit can settle. Pour into sterilised jars, label and seal.