We all like to eat well and if you want to eat then learn to cook well. Recipes handed down through families are culinary treasures. In New Zealand when I was a child, it was common to preserve fruit and vegetables, to make our own lemonade. No convenience store down the road for us. Visitors to the farm who turned up at morning teatime quite often stayed for dinner. Food draws people together and it is nice to offer homemade preserves with other food.
Relishes, chutneys and jams that are simple to make, are staple items in my pantry, used to jus up different recipes. Each season, fruit and vegetables ripen faster than we can consume. Home preservation is a practical money-saving activity that I enjoy and the chance to do some cook creative cooking. Yesterday, I turned a surplus of cucumbers picked from my garden into a lightly spiced relish that partners well with cheeses and cold meat. It will not last long in this household.
Surplus fruit gets frozen each season and the cleanout of the freezer prompted a jam-making effort. The raspberries, strawberries, boysenberries, white sugar and pectin smelled divine as the fruit came to a boiling roll in my jam-making saucepan. Using a wooden spoon, I stirred occasionally for the six-minute cooking time.
The low-pectin berry jam recipe has varied a little from my mother’s recipe: 1.75 kg of fruit, 1.1 kg of warmed sugar and a 70 gram sachet of powdered pectin.
It is a basic recipe. As I had enough berries, I did not want to add more fruit such as cooking apples or crabapples, as Mum usually did, even though they are high in pectin and jell easily when made into jam. My way to check the jam is setting is to cool a teaspoonful of jam on a plate which should crinkle when pushed with a finger.
I remember my brothers always wanted jam sandwiches for their school lunches. As kids, we all loved the taste of Mum’s newly set jam spread over a slice of fresh bread. There is nothing quite like the flavour of home grown seasonal fruit transformed into a delicious homemade conserve.