Tuesday, 30 April 2013

jam jar etiquette : lesson four

Jam AKA The Trouble Maker

Sound a bit odd, but it's true.  There are some aspects of jam making (jammin', jammin', I hope you like jammin' too...) that should be absolutely straightforward, but oh no no no, that would just be too easy.  The universe dictates that something so yummy has to have some rubbishy things to balance it up ~ this is a recognised phenomenon, often referred to by clever science bods as the 'no pain no gain' theory.  So, jam is delicious, but there a couple of points where you need to stop singing into your wooden spoon microphone pretending to be delete as appropriate Beyonce / the Weather Girls / Oasis / Meatloaf (or is that just Mr Manley?), and concentrate on the jam.  I know it doesn't seem fair and you love this song and you haven't heard it for ages and you're right, dancing along in the kitchen very definitely does count as exercise, but just for a minute, focus on the jam!

What's all this about saucers in the freezer?

This is to do with testing to see if the jam will 'set' ~ which means  whether, when the jam has cooled in the jars, it will be that kind of semi~solid consistency.  To a certain extent this comes down to personal preference ~ I like jam to be runny so it sinks into the toast or crumpet or scone, but Mr Manley likes it thicker so it sits on the top all lumpy.  However you like your jam, you need to know how it will be once it's cooled, but the catch~22 here is that you need to know while it's still hot, and this is where the saucers come in . . .

{When I say jam, I mean actual jam or marmalade ~ this does not work the same way for lemon curd, anything else curd, chutney or pickle ~ I'll cover those in lesson six}

If you look it up anywhere sensible, testing to see if the jam will set seems to involve extensive pre~planning as well as actual physical preparation to do with freezers and saucers, but I'm way too lazy busy for that.  First problem: we don't have any saucers.  Second problem: my memory (or lack thereof) means I'd have no chance of remembering to put a saucer in the freezer.  And if somehow I did remember to put it in, I'd forget I had done, so would use my usual guess~timate method anyway, and then only realise I'd done it when Mr Manley asked me at some point 'Lucas, I was getting some turkey twizzlers out of the freezer just now and found a saucer in there.  I didn't even know we had any saucers.  Anything to do with you?'

So, the patented abstractLucas lazy energy conserving method of working out if your jam is jam yet ~

Take a spoon, made of metal.

Big one, little one ~ it's up to you ~ just go with your instincts!

Take your saucepan / stockpot / maslin pan off the heat while you're doing this
Dip it in your jammy~ness  (!)

The photos here are of my tropical fruit jam ~ it's kind of like sunbathing on a beach in July with a cool cocktail next to you in a pineapple with a little paper umbrella sticking out of the top ... yum!

Put the spoon in a little pot or a glass or something to keep the stickiness contained.

Put pot and spoon in the fridge.

Sit down, take some time for yourself.    Well, a couple of minutes anyway... Crossword.  Sudoku.  Cigarette.  Cup of tea.  Jammy dodger.  All of the above.

Take pot and spoon out of fridge.

This is where it gets technical folks ~ pay attention!

Perform a through visual inspection of jammy spoon.

If in doubt, lick.

If not in doubt, lick anyway ~ no point in wasting it!  Wash the spoon afterwards, even if you're going to need it again ~ otherwise you're potentially introducing bacteria from your mouth into the jam.

If it's set, (see how there are little lumpy clumpy jelly~like bits?) congratulations, your jam is jam.  Hurrah!

If it not, put the saucepan back on the heat for five more minutes, then repeat.  

Don't fret, all the best jam passes second time around.  Or is that just driving tests?

If you prefer your jam thicker, more solid, you'll want to see bigger blobs on the spoon (technical term that, used by all the best cooking chef people).  Again, just make sure you remember to take your jammy pan off of the heat while your spoon is in the fridge!

So no saucers in the freezer then?

        ~ you've now completed jam jar etiquette lesson four!

jam jar etiquette : lesson one asked 'why make jam?'; whether to buy new jars or reuse those you already have; and how to store empty jars should you decide to reuse.

jam jar etiquette : lesson two asked whether you suffer from the stinky jar problem, and showed you a way to triumph over the stinkiness.

jam jar etiquette : lesson three asked 'sterilizing jars ~ why and how?'

Today in jam jar etiquette : lesson four you found out what saucers in the freezer had to do with jam, and a different way of checking the consistency of your jam.

Next time, on jam jar etiquette : lesson five asks 'do I have to do it on my own, by myself, all alone and lonely?'

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