If you’re going to have a go at jam-making, first can I recommend you get this song in your head. Where it will stay all day. No need to thank me.
On our way back from a walk, we passed a wild damson* tree laden down with fruit, so we stopped and picked some. The cooking apples are from a tree that hangs over into our garden.
I followed this recipe from Gransnet.
1/4 litre water
granulated sugar (weight to be determined later)
Wash and destalk the damsons, chop the apples (no need to peel), and boil both gently until soft. Push through a colander to remove the seeds and skins. (I say ‘push through’ like it’s a serene thing, but it’s more like a jammy wrestling match.) Weigh the puree, and add the same weight of sugar. Mix it well, then boil for 15 minutes.
Two important jam-makin’ things to know before you start:
1) You need a cold plate, so put one in the freezer in preparation. To test if the jam is ready, you drip a bit onto the cold plate, leave it for a couple of seconds, then push it with your finger. If it wrinkles, it’s reached setting point. If it behaves like a liquid, it needs a bit longer.
2) You need warm, sterilised jars at the ready. Wash them in hot water, then put them in the oven at 140C for half an hour before the jam is ready.
Cost: 33p a jar
The only cost was 1.5kg sugar, at £1.30ish from Asda. For that, we filled four big 750g jars (courtesy of a lodger with a love for Dolmio pasta sauces).
*I’m saying ‘damson’ for simplicity. Here’s the Geoff version: “I think what we found might actually have been bullaces, but the whole group – blackthorn (sloes), bullaces, damsons, plums and cherry plums and wild cherries (cherries are just small plums) are all inter-fertile and it is not even clear what the true wild ancestors were, apart from that blackthorn was one of them. So there are trees growing all over the UK, some of which were planted, others self-seeded which are basically sloe-bullace-damson-cherry-plums – they are a bit like mongrel dogs. It’s where our concept of what is a “species” starts to break down. They are all edible, and the taste ranges from sweet to sour to tasteless!”