Preserving is one of those things that needs doing on a hot summer afternoon full of plentiful ripe fruit and nothing much else to do.
It is somehow deeply satisfying to be presented with a large pile of blackcurrants, and to top and tail them all, witnessing the progress and working your way steadily through them. It’s quiet time, time to think, time to let the mind wander as you take on the task in hand.
If you plan to make a lot, enough to last the winter, it is definitely worth taking the kids down to a pick-your-own and getting them to collect several boxes of your favourite fruit.
It is both a good day out and the only place where a strawberry truly tastes like a strawberry, warmed from the sun and with a soft, yielding skin, unlike its hardened cousins in the supermarket, picked much before they were ripe.
If you’ve tried your hand unsuccessfully at jam-making before, it might be time to invest in a jam thermometer, which will let you know when your jam reaches setting point. Otherwise the saucer trick (detailed in the method below) will do.
This recipe is an old Mrs Beeton recipe. I have updated the weights and measures. She uses gills and pounds and also recommends collecting the fruit on a very dry day.
Mrs Beeton’s blackcurrant jam
• 450g blackcurrants
• ¼ pint of water
• 340g jam sugar (Tate & Lyle do one, stocked by most supermarkets)
Put a saucer into the freezer. Turn the oven on to 160°C and put a large jar or two smaller ones into the oven, lids off, to sterilise.
Top and tail the blackcurrants. Put into a large pan (preferably a preserving one) and add the water. Boil for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sugar, stirring to dissolve and let it bubble for around 10-15 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.
To test if the jam is set, take the plate from the freezer and put a small spoonful on to it. Leave it for a few minutes, then push it away from you with your nail – if it wrinkles then the jam is set. If not, continue to boil for another few minutes before testing again.
Once setting point has been reached, carefully remove your jam jars from the oven and pour the jam in. Allow to cool then seal with wax paper or a rubber ring. Pop the lid on and store in the fridge.