A couple of years ago, Luke and I decided to make hampers as Christmas presents. We filled it with the most incredible things (think Harrods mince pies, Fortnum & Mason tea, Jo Malone candles, etc). We’d only been dating a couple of years, so I think I was trying to be a bit of a kiss ass with his family (and him with mine), so we were eager to impress.
Surprise surprise, it cost us an absolute bundle. This year, we’ve been counting our pennies better since we’ve been spending on holidays, Pickles (our boxer), etc. So we’ve decided to make our Christmas presents this year. And when I say ‘we’, I mean ‘I’ am making our presents. But I’m not too bothered by doing the majority of the work – I think it’s really nice to make presents with love! That and I’m a bit of a control freak/enjoy micromanaging, so it’s probably for the best anyway.
The first thing I KNEW I wanted to make was a jam. I’ve been jam-obsessed ever since Thermapen invited me to a jam making workshop a few months ago. The day after I’d been bitten by the jam bug, I ran out to buy a jam bucket (I’m lucky enough to have received a Thermapen in the goody bag, along with a huge preserving spoon that looks badass in my kitchen).
BUT what jam to make? There’s not a huge amount of fruit in season right now. After going back and forth between making a winter berry jam (slightly overdone I feel, everyone has berry jam) or a cranberry sauce (I know a lot of people like to make their own), we decided on plums being the star of the show. Add in apple and bay leaf for flavour, as well as cinnamon, which also gives a winter feel. And I feel like you could throw the word ‘winter’ in front of any recipe and it’ll sound super cosy and hygge.
The jam recipe is pretty basic. Once you learn the basics, pectin levels of fruit, etc, it’s really easy. I like to think creating the flavour combinations in an art, but the process is a science.
Some general jam tips:
- Apple is high in pectin levels, so it’s great to have in most jams.
- If you use fruits with high pectin levels, use preserving sugar. If you use low pectin fruits, use jam sugar (which contains pectin in it).
- A lot of jams recipes call for more sugar than fruit, or 1:1, however for every kilo of fruit, use 750g jam. It obviously doesn’t need to be exactly a kilo – just think of it as 3/4 of the amount. If you don’t want to make too much jam, 1kg of fruit is a good amount to aim for.
- GET YOURSELF A PRESERVING PAN! (I call mine my jam bucket). It’s the BEST investment I’ve made, and that you’ll make if you’re going to be making jam. Luke likes to use it to make meals as well, like when we were making loads of vegan lasagne filling.
- Add lemon juice while you’re cooking – it’ll help it set and help it to not go off.
- Use in season fruit, and avoid using over-ripe fruit!
Okay, to the recipe!
I used just over 2kg of fruit and made 13 jars, so I’m going to halve the recipe and you should be making around 6. Remember, your fruit measurements don’t need to be exact! A little more plum/less apple or vice versa is absolutely fine.
700g plums, washed, pitted and sliced
300g apples, chopped into teeny tiny little cubes (as you don’t want to see them in the jam)
2 or 3 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
750g preseving sugar
juice of 1 lemon
jam wax disks
- Preheat your oven to 140C gas. Wash your jam jars in hot, soapy water. Put them on a tray and into the oven for 10 minutes, then turn it down to 60C. Leave them in there until you’re ready to pot your jam, as the jars need to be hot when they’re being filled. Also, put a plate in the fridge (for the wrinkle test – more on this later).
- On a low to medium heat, put in your apples and cook for a minute, then add in your plums, followed by the sugar and lemon juice. Stir and gently melt the sugar completely. Add in the bay leaves and cinnamon sticks (you can use a muslin bag if you like, but I just pop it straight in the pan and then avoid them when I’m potting the jam into the jars).
- Increase the heat and bring the jam to a roaring boil. Keep it at a good boil and stir often so the jam doesn’t catch and burn.
- Keep checking your jam with your thermometer – it’s done when it reaches 105C. If you don’t have a thermometer (or even if you do), it’s important to do the wrinkle test. Get your plate that’s in the fridge, put a tsp of your jam on it, and put it back in the fridge for 30 seconds. Gently push the jam and see if it wrinkles slightly. If it does, that means it’s done! I use both the thermometer AND the wrinkle test just to be sure – as the jam gets higher in temperature (around 104C), I start doing wrinkle tests. You, of course, could be less paranoid than myself and do one or the other.
- Remove the jam off the heat and cool it for 10/15 minutes to let it thicken a little. Remove your jars from the oven, and ladle the jam into the pots (either straight in or using a jam funnel if you have one). Put the wax disks in before you twist the lids on. Be careful as the jars are hot – I use a round silicone heatproof mat to help hold the jar as I twist the lids on.
AND YOU’RE DONE! You don’t need to put them into the fridge until after you open them, so store in a cool, dry place until then. Remember to pop on a label for them, with what’s in them and the date you made it (if you don’t think it’s going to get gobbled up in a matter of weeks).
The perfect Christmas gift! Pair with a nice big sourdough loaf (I’m getting mine from The Dusty Knuckle – the BEST sourdough in London!) and advise people to cut big, thick, doorstop slices. Om nom nom.