A Summer Occupation

Something happens to me in summer time in the mountains. I have to make Jam. This started a few years ago simply because Himself has to have Apricot Jam whilst in France. Of course I could go to the grocery store and buy “Bonne Maman” but that would just not be the same! In France, in the summer there are roadside stands selling trays of apricots and so inspired I started making jam.

The first year, was just Apricot , but the following year Marcel, the farmer whose house/barn is attached to ours, decamped to the Lakeside and put his barn up for sale. In the garden was a wonderful red currant bush and so I asked if I could pick them and so that year we had red currant Jam / Jelly as well, and so it has progressed.

However, I have now learnt to cheat a little. Using frozen fruit has tremendous advantages, no need to bend low to pick, de-stone, wash, clean, or remove bugs. Consequently, so far this year I have made raspberry, cherry ( fantastic being able to buy de-stoned frozen cherries), Myrtilles, again these are the equivalent to blueberries, but they grow wild and are few and far between on the low bushes, but frozen ! Easy Peasy, as they say. And of course some more Apricot, but for this, I actually had to stone them etc. myself!

Jam making has to be an occupation of rural French Housewives. As the grocery stores at this time of year are full of the requisite Bonne Maman type jam jars, and other jam making equipment including Sugar! I am sure it is also available in the UK, but here is is there on the shelf, next to ordinary sugar, so no need to go hunting for it. The sugar is labelled Sucre Gélifiant ( Preserving Sugar) it contains 98.7% sugar, along with acidifiant ( pectin); citric acid. So almost no need to add anything else, though I have to admit that I have added, maybe a 1/4 Cup lemon juice.

The other things that make life a bit easier, is having a preserving pan, a long handled wooden spoon or wooden shaft with a metal stirrer, and a jam thermometer.

So put very simply:-

Put into the pan the fruit, defrosted or not and heat until the fruit is very soft. For each kilo of fruit a kilo of sugar is require. Pour in the sugar, stir well and continue to heat on a medium heat. Put in the thermometer and occasionally stirring, keep an eye on the thermometer. Using a thermometer makes life very easy indeed, as there are different heats indicated and Yes there is one marked JAM! No more guess work needed, but being old school in this respect I do still test that the Jam has reached a setting point. This is done by spooning a small amount of jam onto a a plate or saucer, put somewhere cool for about 5 minutes, press a finger onto the surface and see if it is setting.

The jars need to be sterilised , and this can be done in the dishwasher or in the microwave. Place the jars half filled with water and microwave on high for about 3 minutes, long enough for the water to boil. Several jars can be done at the same time. Lids of course can’t be done in the microwave, so I put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Drain the jars and leave upside down on a clean cloth and wipe dry inside with some paper towel. Using a ladle fill the jars almost to the brim with the jam, and tightly seal on the lids, label and you are done !

Easy? But of course! Happy Jam Making !

However I have just had a real Flashback! Walking up the lane, there is the most wonderful rosebush full, of the most beautiful rose hips.

A lifetime ago, whilst living in Normandy, I decided that my girls needy some extra Vitamin C and what better way to give it to them than RoseHip Syrup! And yes, somehow or other I found the recipe in some old cookery / home hints book and made my own. ( I guess that despite having two small children I had plenty of time on my hands.) I seem to recall also being very fed up with Baguettes that went stale too quickly making my own bread daily with the help of my then 2 year old. I seriously doubt that she remembers that and also doubt that she would ever make her own today! But then again why would she?

One thought on “A Summer Occupation

  1. I couldn’t read this in France, so just have. But I did find frozen blueberries in Carrefour and made Pat lots of compote to eat withhis soya yoghurt at lunch. The real blueberries were either very expensive and tasty, but less expensive with no flavour. xoxo

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