Making Jam like a granny

Neither of us are really jam eaters.  In fact, the only time either of us eat jam is when we are staying at a hotel!  We started making jam for the breakfast we serve at Chalet Cannelle in the first summer we lived in Chatel.  It was July, and I remember it well as I sat watching Le Tour De France with 10kgs of Apricots to prepare, before they were steeped for 3 hours while the jars were being sterilised before any of the actual jam cooking actually started.

No doubt about it, making your own jam is a labour of love.  If our guests didn’t comment so frequently on how tasty the jams are I think we would have given up a long time ago.  If you like jam, there really is no comparison between homemade and shop bought.

A pretty average supermarket jam is about 30% fruit.  A good quality one might go to 50% but you rarely see more than that.  All the jams we make are about 65% so it’s quite easy to see why homemade, with the right recipe, will always shine above a mass produced bought jam. It is difficult to go much higher than this with the fruit, as the sugar is needed to draw the water from the fruit and make the bind.  Without this, it will be very runny.  This binding of the water and sugar molecules also provides the preservation, allowing us to keep the jam for some time.

We make two jams from the fruit in our garden, strawberry and plum, as well as bilberry that we pick from the top of Bassachaux in September (for Chatel skiers, close to the top of the Rochassons chairlift)  and apricot using French Apricots, usually from Provence.

Jam should be made when the fruit is at it’s best. Quite a lot of recipes call for “Jam fruit”, fruit that is damaged and not the pick of the crop but I disagree. The fruit has to be the tastiest it can be.  Always taste the fruit before you start

Chalet Cannelle Strawberry Jam

2kg strawberry flesh (after the stalk has been picked off)
1kg high pectin Jam sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
2 vanilla pods

You will need about 8 jam jars.  Start by giving them a good clean, ideally thorough a dishwasher. Place them in an oven at 100°C for at least 20 minutes to sterilise them.

In a large casserole pan, put the strawberries in with the sugar and lemon juice. Split the vanilla pods, scrape out the seeds and add the seeds and pod to the pot. Allow the mixture to steep for 30 minutes and then use a potato masher to mash the fruit in to the sugar.

Cook on a medium heat until boiling and then turn the heat down to low.

Place a saucer in the fridge and after 30 minutes of cooking start to test the jam by taking a ½ teaspoon of the jam and placing it on the cold saucer. You should be able to run your finger through the jam and see it leave the gap behind without closing back up. Normally it will take around 40 – 50 minutes to reach this stage.Another sign the jam is ready is that you will  notice it has become darker and the bubbles look like the sort you would see coming up from a volcano.

Turn the heat off when your jam is ready and then pour it in to your clean jars before sealing tightly.  Be careful!  Hot sugar can cause bad burns!

This jam will keep un-opened for a year out of the fridge. After opening, keep in the fridge and use within 1 month.

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