24 November 2019

Microwave Jam Making

We've been away for a week, and although we weren't due home until tomorrow, circumstances made it so we came home early.

Thank goodness! I am convinced it was my guardian angel that gently steered us home a couple of days early because there was an almost disaster waiting for me.

On Wednesday we had some electrical work done, and the electrician unplugged the big freezer, and then he obviously forgot to plug it in again. I'm grateful that the kids didn't need to go into it, it stayed closed until Saturday morning when Hannah opened it to get bread out for me.

And promptly yelled that the freezer wasn't working.

Those are words that strike fear into my heart.

Anyway, only the top two layers were partially thawed. That meant I spent time cooking up a storm and then packaging meals to freeze, but I'm not upset. Having ready-to-heat meals in the freezer is my idea of bliss, especially coming into the heat of summer.

But all my packages of berries had thawed - around 5 kilos of fruit.

So I put them in the fridge until this afternoon, when I spent a couple of hours making jam. Now there is strawberry jam and raspberry jam and blackberry jam, enough for the hampers and hopefully most of next year, done and cooling on the bench.

Jam making isn't hard, you just need to be careful because melted sugar burns!

My basic jam recipe is simple: equal quantities of fruit and sugar, and the juice of a lemon. Put it in a pot, bring it to a boil, stir until the sugar has dissolved, then let it boil (remember to stir it so it doesn't stick and burn) until it sets. This takes between 20 - 40 minutes, depending on how much fruit and sugar you are cooking and the fruit. I start testing for setting point at 20 minutes, then test every five minutes until some of the jam on a cold spoon forms a skin and doesn't run straight off the spoon. It will thicken and set as it cools.

I prefer to have it just a little runnier than overdone. If you do overcook it, don't worry. It will still taste good, just be a little more like a fruit paste than a jam. If the jam is a little runny when it cools you can recook it, or just use it as a sauce over pancakes or waffles or drizzled over a sponge cake or muffins. Or add it to milk to make ice blocks. It's still good.

Today though I was busy doing other things as well so I chose the microwave method of jam making.

Again, equal quantities of fruit and sugar and the juice of a lemon, into a big, microwave safe, bowl. I use a 3 litre Pyrex bowl. Cook on HIGH for 10 minutes. Stir. Cook on HIGH another 10 minutes. Stir and start your testing for setting point. Continue to cook on HIGH in 5 minute bursts, stirring and testing, until setting point is reached. You can pretty much eyeball it by looking at the bowl as it cooks. If the jam is frothing up and looks like it will overflow, it's probably ready.

To dissolve the froth on top of the jam you can either skim it off with a strainer, or add a teaspoon (no more) of butter and stir into it.

Now you've made your jam you'll need jars. You can reuse jam jars you have recycled, no need to buy new jars. Just make sure they are clean and the lids are intact and clean. Although, you don't really need a lid. Not so very long ago, jam was covered with clear covers, dampened and stretched over the top of the jar, then tied off with string or a rubber band. You can still get them at the supermarket - they're not expensive, Coles sell Folwers Vacola Kleerview Jam Covers for $1.60/pack 24 (7c each).  I do suggest that for jams, you use only lids that have originally come from jam jars. The rubber seal around the lids can hold the scent or flavour from what it covered, so if it was a pickle lid, you could end up with strawberry pickle flavoured jam!

While the jam is cooking I have the jars in the oven sterilising and keeping warm. Only every add hot jam to hot jars - hot jam in cold jars could cause a very nasty explosion. As soon as they are filled, I wipe around the rims with a wet cloth and put the lids on. Then let them cool. As they cool you will hear the lids seal - there is a very distinctive "pop" as the seal is formed. Let them cool completely then they are ready to store in the pantry.

I listen with bated breath for that "pop" and then grin when I hear it - that is a sound that really makes my heart happy!

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