I have a confession to make, and further evidence of my dull existence. This long weekend, I was almost ecstatic at the prospect of puttering, cleaning out my basement and making jam. Throw in a book and a few magazines in the back yard, maybe some movies and surfing food blogs on my laptop on the couch, and that to me seemed the height of luxury. (That or a trip overseas, but I think curtain #1 is the only option here.) In the summer, I adore making jam. The problem is I generally go overboard, and then get tired of it somewhere around a half dozen batches, halfway through the process. People who know me know this, and pawn jars off on me all the time, hoping that a few will be returned to them full. (If you are one of those people, please identify yourself; I remember getting lots of jars over the past year, but can’t remember who they came from.)
But of all the jams in the world, I think black currant is my favourite. We went out to Kayben Farms this morning, hoping to pick strawberries and black currants; about 24 cars got up earlier and beat us there, cleaning out the strawberries, and the black currants are still about a week away from being ready. So I picked up a 1.5L tub of black currant puree – jam mix, really – all you do is add an equal amount of sugar and cook it until it turns into jam – or if you have a candy thermometer, to 210 degrees. I added about a tablespoon of lemon juice at the end. (The fruit-sugar ratio wouldn’t be as high with fresh berries, but the puree is much denser, so is equal to almost twice as much whole berries. You could definitely get away with using less sugar, but the berries are fairly tart.)
When I make jam, I generally do it without packaged pectin. (This is easier to get away with than it might sound.) Black currants are naturally high in pectin, so they are easy to turn into jam. With strawberries, keep the white parts, which is where the pectin is – don’t cut those spots out when you trim off the stems. Apples are also high in pectin – particularly the seeds – so if I’m making jelly or a jam that needs to be strained, I throw a few quartered apples from my tree into the pot; it generally helps the jam set without altering the flavour. I just read about a method of making homemade pectin out of apples that only involves boiling them, which seems like a great use of the massive quantities of crabapples and small apple tree apples I have during the summer that are too small to bother peeling and coring. More on that later; I still have plenty of batches of jam in me.
I did feed W a slightly more proper dinner of leftover pasta and meatballs, and Mike finished the last bit of Vij’s curry from the freezer. But I nibbled on toast and jam with iced coffee all afternoon – you can’t make jam without having leftovers in the bottom of the pot to taste – and in the end that was my dinner. And a mighty tasty one it was.