Life has been pretty difficult since catching COVID-19 after travelling to the UK for the first time in nearly a year. One of the worst things was completely losing my sense of taste and smell for nearly a month which meant I also lost my appetite and desire to cook. Fortunately the return of my taste has coincided with the summer fruit season here in Italy and I’ve found great pleasure picking the fruit from the trees in my garden and making jam. Jam making is remarkably easy even with soft fruits like plums and apricots. Jam recipes typically require the addition of pectin and ridiculous amounts of sugar. This recipe has reduced sugar and lemon juice which lowers the PH of the jam and helps it to set. The final product is not only delicious but also much healthier than shop bought varieties.
1kg soft fruit e.g. plums, apricots, strawberries
250g granulated sugar
Juice of half a lemon
To make more jam simply increase the ingredients by the same ratio. For example I used 4kg plums with 1kg granulated sugar, the juice of 2 lemons and 300ml water
You will also need jars with lids. 1kg of fruit makes 3 small jars of jam.
First, wash the fruit and drain off any excess water. My fruit are organic so I wasn’t worried about pesticides but I was worried about pests! Then halve the fruits, taking out the stone if there is one. Unfortunately my apricots had quite bad skins but I just removed those parts. It’s a bit of a fiddly and time consuming job, especially if the stones don’t come out easily, and you will end up with very sticky hands. But it’s also quite therapeutic!
Next, put the fruit in a stainless steel pan with the water and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring almost constantly to stop the fruit from sticking to the bottom. After 10 minutes add the sugar and lemon juice. Mix together and simmer on a low heat for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. The mixture will thicken and the fruit will break down completely.
While the jam is cooking you will need to sterilise your jars and lids. I’ve written about how to do this elsewhere but in short, you need to wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water and then stand the jars on a baking tray and leave them in a hot oven for 10 mins. The lids should be boiled in a pan for water for the same amount of time.
You can check that the jam is ready by putting a small amount on a cold plate. If it doesn’t set then leave it to simmer for a further 10 minutes.
When it’s ready the hot jam should be poured into the hot jars so that everything remains sterile. Leave about 1cm free at the top.
Add the lids and screw them tight. To check if the lids are properly sealed simply push down each one when the jam has cooled down. If it doesn’t pop up it’s sealed and will last around 6 months. If it pops up it needs to be stored in a fridge and eaten more quickly – not necessarily a bad thing! Serve with bread, on toast, in yoghurt or however you prefer.