The meandering thoughts of a modern-day hearth witch.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Apple and Elderberry Jam

Are you sitting comfortably?
Then I shall begin...

What follows is the incredible tale of how the Hearthwitch Cottage kitchen came to look like a jam-bomb had exploded.

This story begins with around 1lb of elderberries; freshly picked from hedgerow-lined lanes, in the last days of summer. Our little hearth witch protagonist had taken extra special care not to pick more than necessary for she knew the needs of other creatures were far greater than her own. 

Some of the berries had their journey suspended in the enchanted land of frost and ice (they would later be put to good use, adding a sprinkle of sweetness to a sharp apple crumble or two) but the rest were destined for greatness. But what, thought the little hearth witch, would be a fitting finale for these wild berries? 

'Ah ha!' she cried, spying the mound of wind-fall Bramleys on her kitchen table. And thus, a plan was concocted...

Now...the hearth witch had never made jam before and, if she was entirely honest, she would admit that she was a little bit nervous and rather overwhelmed by all the information she read to try and help her brew a batch of deliciously sticky, fruity goodness. How were jars sterilised? What was a 'setting point' and how exactly was a witch to know when the elusive temperature had been reached without a thermometer in the house? Did she really need special jam-making sugar or would ordinary granulated do the job?

With a fretful sigh, the apples were carefully weighed - 1lb was needed to equal the amount of elderberry fruit - chopped and placed in a pan with water to heat and soften.

Next would come the bit about making sure the jars were sterilised...

The hearth witch set about washing the jars in hot soapy water and placed the lids into a pan with water to keep at a boil while she worked. Having read countless instructions (from places like this), our novice jam-maker decided to go for the 'oven-baked' approach and placed her jars, upside down on baking paper, in an oven that had been heated to 170 degrees C. (She was reliably informed that she should ensure her jam was ladled into jars while they were still hot so she left them in the oven until she was finished.)

Meanwhile, the appley-sharpness had bubbled away for ten minutes and the elderberry sweetness added until all fruit was soft and mushy. 2lb of sugar (after resigning herself to the fact that the chances of finding jam-makers' sugar on a Sunday afternoon in rural Wiltshire were slim-to-none, she plumped for ordinary granulated) and 2 tbsp of lemon juice were added and the mixture stirred with care over a low heat until all the sugar had dissolved. At this point, the heat was fired up and the jam was boiled furiously for several minutes until that mysterious, magickal 'setting point' was reached. (For tips on how to do this, see here). 

The hearth witch found that the 'splodge-of-jam-on-cold-plate-in-fridge' method worked far better than the 'waving-spoon-around-outside-kitchen-door' method. Her jam never succeeded in staying on the spoon and her neighbours now think she is a bit strange.

It was within the space of these 10-15 minutes that the hearth witch momentarily awoke from her jam-making reverie and glanced around: her kitchen looked like a jam-bomb had exploded.

She did, however, manage to achieve five jars of sticky (satisfactorily set!) sweetness - as well as a taster pot for herself - all out of an apple windfall and a meander down the lane. 'Quite an extraordinary achievement,' the hearth witch said to herself, as she brushed back her unkempt hair and put her feet up with a cup of tea and a crumpet spread with jam.

8 musings:

Cottage Tails said...

Nothing is nicer than home made jam.

Love Leanne

Jo said...

Yummy - can smell the sweetness from here.

I remember well my own first attempts at jam-making. after taking delivery of an enormous bag of damsons from a kindly neighbour. But our sticky-sweetness just would NOT set and I was ready to throw the 'splodge-of-jam-on-cold-plate-in-fridge' out of the backdoor entirely!!! Until much bubbling-later, plus a frantic cycle into the next village for additional supplies, we were eventually able to pour said jam into our sterilised jars... truly scrumptious on warm homemade bread. BUT the pans that had previously held the luscious dark sweetness.... hmmm they were destined for much lowlier places!! For after much scrubbing they never did get clean again!!

Mother's Moon's Message said...

this sounds wonderful... I can only imagine how it tastes... yum

Jen said...

Congrats on your first attempt. I have yet to be so brave.

Faerie Moon Creations said...

Thank you for sharing your path to jam-dom! It sounds delicious. I've never had elderberries before. I enjoy making strawberry jam and - at this time of the year - apple butter. I'm sure I'll be making lots of batches since we purchase into a farm share each year and get loads of them. Now you will be an old pro at making the jam. Theresa

Aine O'Brien said...

Hi! Just wanted you to know that I have passed three blog awards onto you!

Aelwyn said...

Hey, you got three awards! :) Check 'em out here:


Jam Maker said...

This story made me smile!

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