Thursday, 20 August 2009

Green Queens

Last night, I made greengage and vanilla bean jam.

I never stick to recipes, normally, but as I'd never made jam before, I thought that it would probably be a good idea to do so this time. Even if that did seem like an awful lot of sugar! However, as the jam has turned out... oooh, lip-puckeringly tangy, it definitely wasn't too much sugar.

It took a long time to cool down last night, so at 21:20 I headed over to start making it... at which point I remembered that I was supposed to macerate the fruit and sugar together for an hour. Botheration. So I chopped and pitted my greengages (which have the lovely name of reine-claude in French, named after the wife of Francois I), put them in my Le Creuset casserole dish, poured the sugar over the top, added the lemon juice, stirred it around, put the lid on, and went off to do other things for an hour.

When I came back, a lot of juice had come out of the fruit. I added the vanilla, having split and seeded the pods, adding both the seeds and the pods in, and then turned the gas on. I'm so glad I had a gas hob-top put in! It's so much easier to control the heat than it was with the electric top I had before.

I cooked, stirring, until the sugar had melted down, then wandered off. I came back to stir a while later, and found there was a thick foam over the top. I know that in some recipes you skim this off, but as it had lifted most of the vanilla seeds with it, I certainly wasn't going to do that, so I stirred it back in instead.

I pretty much left it to its own devices, coming back to stir now and again as it simmered, and discovering that boiling jam, when it spatters on your skin, is indeed rather painful. And when you stir simmering jam, it bubbles up a lot harder than it was, and spits at you. Ouch. Fortunately I only got a couple of very minor splashes on me.

After about an hour, I started to test. I'd read, heavens knows where, it seems that I've always known it, despite never having made jam before, that the best thing to do was to put a plate in the fridge, then drop a teaspoonful of jam on it to see if it was thick enough (the cold plate cools it faster, so it thickens). I tested a couple of times before it was right- which gave Peter and I an opportunity to taste it. Mmmm...

He went to bed before I'd finished. At 23:30 I started putting it into pots, ending up with one large and one small pot... and half a small pot to go into the fridge. Most of which has already been eaten, as even Greta, who is not a fan of being fed anything from a spoon early in the day, had several spoonfuls at breakfast time.

As you can see, from very green fruits, it came out a lovely gold. It rather worried me, at one point! I wonder what colour other fruit jams will turn...

I need to make more of this. It's perfect for Christmas presents... although I do have so many other jam recipes begging for attention! And a friend was telling me earlier via chat that the plums in his garden are almost ripe, and he has a kilo ear-marked for me. He better make it two kilos- one for him, one for us!

Greengage and vanilla jam, courtesy of Chez Pim
- about 1kg Greengages, pitted and chopped
- 500g sugar (in my case, brown, organic, fair-trade sugar- making it Worthy Jam!)
- juice from 1 lemon
- 2 vanilla beans, cut in half, seeded

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