Thursday, October 9, 2014

Mulberry Jam - A simple recipe

The mulberries soaking in the sugar, and the mulberries cooking.

Almost three years ago I planted a mulberry tree next to our shed. At that stage it was little more than a twig with two leaves on it. It was difficult to imagine that in three short years it's branches would be so heavy with fruit that I would happily allow the birds to take their fill and still be filling a colander with fruit each day. I feel rich with fruit! And to celebrate I have been sharing it with my neighbours, freezing it for when the tree is exhausted and turning my hand to jam making. 

I've attempted Mulberry jam in the past with limited success. My first batch wouldn't set and jars and jars of runny jam went to waste. My second batch I overcooked in an effort to right the wrongs of my first batch. This time the contents of my jars was something like a fruit toffee, though less edible. This week though I found satisfaction! I cooked a batch of jam that made me proud and which has been covering muffins and crumpets ever since.

Where I had been going wrong was trying to cook Mulberry jam the same way I cook Strawberry jam. But Mulberries are thicker, denser and need more cooking time. Cooking in smaller batches also seems like the best way to go. I've written down my steps for future reference, and for anyone else interested in making their own jam. I learnt to make jam after a whole lot of googling, and tips from Rhonda at Down to Earth blog.

You will need -

800 grams Mulberries
800 grams white sugar
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
Stock pot
Wooden Spoon
Jam jars
Measuring cup

Wash the fruit and twist the stems from the top - you can pinch them off too, but this hurts your fingers after awhile.
Weigh your Mulberries and sugar, you want about the same amount of fruit as sugar, though you can try using a little less sugar.
Place fruit in your biggest saucepan - I use a stock pot - and cover with sugar. Mix and leave for an hour.

Meanwhile, wash up your jam jars and heat your oven up on to a low heat (80 degrees) and place jars inside to sterilise them. Place a saucepan in the freezer.
Add lemon juice to fruit and sugar, bring to the boil while mixing.
Allow mixture to bubble up and skim the foam off the top.
Turn down to a rolling boil and keep stirring so the jam doesn't burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook for approx. 20 minutes, or until mixture seems less runny.

Take a teaspoon of the liquid mixture and drip it across the plate from the freezer. This cools the boiling liquid so you can see if the jam has 'set' or not. This step confused me at first. I wasn't sure how to tell if it has set or not. What you are looking for is for your drips to behave like store brought jam. So when you push your fingernail through the drip, the mixture should part and not run back together again. If it does, keep cooking and try again in another ten minutes. If the mixture bunches up and stays separated, it has set and you need to turn the heat off.

Using your tongs to remove the jars from the oven and place the funnel in the mouth of one of the jars. I use a measuring cup with a lip to scoop up the jam mixture and pour it in to the jar. Be careful, it's hot! And hot jam burns! Leave a couple of centimeters room at the top of the jar.
Pop on your lids, turn the jars upside and leave them to cool and they are ready to eat.
If you aren't going to eat them straight away, and you want to store the jam for up to twelve months, you will need to use a water bath method to kill any bacteria in the jar.

Wash out your stock pot and fill it up half way with hot water. Bring it to the boil with a tea towel in the bottom. Place the jars in on top of the tea towel - this helps to avoid them from breaking or cracking on the bottom of the pan - making sure they are covered with water and bring the water back up to the boil and leave it to boil for about an hour.
Remove jars with tongs and let cool overnight.
Store in a dark, cool cupboard for up to a year.

Happy jam making!
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