One of my main frustrations with cooking with sugar, whether it be jam or fondant for the bees, is the inconsistency of the texture of the final product. I know I have to get this right before I’m ready to start selling any jams. I’m now on my fourth thermometer and finally both batches of jam I made are exactly the firmness that I’ve been aiming for all this time.
I’ve been using the metal candy thermometers that clip to the side of the pot with varying results. Even on the best batches, the jams were not as firm as I wanted until I used the above Thermobib thermometer. I made two batches of jam this week and both are the same consistency.
The jam in the picture is spiced apple and fig jam. It’s probably a little more chunky than most people would prefer, but I like to taste pieces of apple in the jams I make for us. It is a simple recipe – 1 pound of figs, 1 pound of Granny Smith apples, 4 cups of sugar, 1 cup of water, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, and a teaspoon of nutmeg. I chop the figs first and cover them with a cup of sugar and the salt to draw some of the moisture out of the figs. Then I peel, core, and chop the apples, add them to the fig mixture and dump the rest of the sugar and the spices on top. When the figs have been resting for at least 30 minutes, I add the water and a strip of the apple peel, and bring the mixture to a boil while constantly stirring. It needs to stay at a rolling boil for a minute or two and then it’s a matter of just boiling enough moisture out to reach the magic temperature of 220 degrees. Remove the strip of apple peel before ladling the mixture into jars. (The pectin in the peel helps the jam set and the rest of the peel makes a nice, healthy snack while cooking!)
I used a recipe from Delicious magazine for the blackberry apple jam, with the modification of boiling the blackberries in the water first and then straining out the pulp and seeds through muslin. This is a good option for people who need to avoid seeds. Personally, I just don’t like having to get the seeds out from between my teeth! As posted in a previous blog, I’d already boiled the blackberries when I picked them at the farm, so it was just a matter of defrosting them and warming them through a little before straining them. I chopped the apples a little finer for this batch.
At the end of “cooking day,” we had two batches of jam from new recipes and had bottled 33 pounds of honey. I love seeing the purple of the blackberry jam and the gold of the spring honey with the sun behind it.
One other recipe I tried this week was figs in honey. I don’t know if the flavors will integrate over time, but this is a recipe that I would only make for family in the future as it uses too much honey for us the market it. I do want to try Roasted Figs in Honey as an ice-cream topping sometime, but again just for family. Sometimes we just need to enjoy what our fig tree provides for us without turning it into jam first!
I’m very happy to say that these were the last recipes I tried on our old, boring, beige counter-tops and that I am looking forward to cooking in our almost-updated kitchen. More about that in the near future…..