We’re now approaching the end of prime foraging time. Fruit is bountifully falling off trees and bushes across the UK, and (try as we might) we are unable to eat it all at the rate it’s ripening. That’s a pretty distressing realisation, what with it all being (drum roll, please...) entirely FREE. Free food going to waste, rotting into the ground? That’s a sin.
And this is where jam-making rears its beautiful head...
What better thing to do with a whole heap of sweet, British fruit than make it into a gorgeous batch of jam?! Even if you’re not craving jam right now, it will be there for you for the rest of the year, keeping you warm and happy throughout the winter months, melting onto hot, buttery crumpets and freshly baked scones. And it will be HOME-MADE.
There’s something sensational about home-made produce. I don’t know why, but people are incredibly impressed when you’ve baked your own cake, made your own load of fudge, concocted your own elderflower cordial, or cooked your own jam. You become a bit deified actually, because there’s this big fallacy linked with cooking: that it’s always hard, and that when it’s done well, the cook deserves to be hailed.
We should all really be taking advantage of this, especially when it comes to jam-making. Because let’s face facts, it’s not an expensive process, and the time: yield ratio is pretty damn brilliant. If you’re then congratulated and praised for ‘making your own’ on top of all that...why then there’s no excuse not to!
The problem is, the whole prospect of jam-making can seem pretty daunting – like going into battle. Big pans of bubbling liquids; bursting fruit which will invariably dye anything that it touches; and regimented, sterilised jars lined up on the work surface. The thing is, like so many things in life, it’s actually really easy. You just need to follow a recipe!
So just to get you doing a bit of foraging, we’re giving you the recipe for an excitingly seasonal ‘Sloe and Apple Jelly’. Sloes are all over the bushes at the moment (we had to wait for the first frost to ripen them, but we’ve certainly had that now!), and apples are undoubtedly all over your grass. If you’re not based in a rural area, however, then you just need to sneak over to your nearest patch of countryside and ‘rescue’ a basketful of fruit (maybe ask the owner first though, and give them a jar of jam as payment...)!
Jellies are a little more complex than jams because they need straining, but that’s it really – you just need to get hold of a jelly bag (or just a muslin...or even a pair of ladies’ stockings if you’re desperate!) and you’re all set.
So here goes:
- 1800g cooking apples
- 900g sloes (rinsed)
- About 2 pints water (judge this when in pan)
- Roughly 1500g granulated sugar (measured according to the volume of juice produced by the fruit). At SuperJam, we make our 100% fruit jams with natural grape juice instead of sugar, but in this case sugar makes the recipe a bit easier to handle...
- Preserving pan
- Jelly bag and stand
- A little set-testing plate
- 6-7 sterilised jars (washed thoroughly and placed in the oven to keep warm) with lids (boiled for a few minutes to sterilise, and then placed in the warm oven with the jars).
How To Make It:
1) Wash and cut up the apples – don’t bother peeling or coring them (unless there are bad bits on/in them of course!)
2) Put the apples into a big preserving pan with the sloes, and add roughly 2 pints of water (enough water to just cover the fruit). Simmer on a low heat until the fruit has all softened and formed a juicy pulp.
3) Pour the pulp into a jelly bag and leave to strain for about 3 hours, until it has all dripped through (or just leave it to drip overnight, and continue to make the jelly in the morning!). Don’t squeeze the liquid through the jelly bag, or the finished jelly won’t end up being nice and clear – if you do suddenly get possessed and impulsively squeeze it, you may want to re-strain the liquid.
4) Once all the juice has been strained, measure its volume, and measure out the sugar needed, allowing 450g of sugar to each pint of juice.
5) Now warm the measured sugar through slightly in a bowl in a warm oven, or just spread it out on a baking tray in that same oven for 5-10 minutes. Warming the sugar makes the jelly-making process faster, allowing you to cook the fruit for a shorter length of time, which means the finished product tastes much more fruity.
6) Put a little plate in the freezer (or fridge if you’re scared it’s going to crack)...this will be used later for testing the jelly’s set.
7) Place the strained juice and the warmed sugar into a cleaned preserving pan, cook over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, and then bring to a rolling boil for about a minute.
8) Take the boiling jelly off the heat, remove the plate from the freezer, and place a tiny blob of jelly on it. The hot jelly will quickly cool, and in order to test whether it has reached its set, simply push it and check if it wrinkles (not just slightly, but in quite a defined way). If it doesn’t wrinkle, return the pan to the boil for another minute, put the cleaned plate back in the freezer, and test again after another minute. Tip: putting two plates in the freezer and using them in continuous succession can help you to catch the set even more accurately.
9) As soon as the jelly reaches its set, pour it into your sterilised jam jars (using a funnel can make this less messy). Quickly put a circle of greaseproof paper on top of each jelly (optional), and balance the lid on top of the jar (don’t do this up totally until the jelly has cooled).
10) Label the jars and stash them away for the winter months, or for brilliant, much-sought-after presents! Sloe and Apple Jelly is pretty versatile: it goes beautifully on sweet crumpets or toast, or equally well with savoury foods like pork or cheese.