(This post was originally written for the October issue of the Hawkesbury Parish News)
No, not in the Bob Marley and the Wailers sense (much as I love them), but in terms of preserving fruit.
I hadn’t made jam for years, but when I ran out of jam on a Sunday after the village shop had closed, I decided to bite the bullet – or rather the gooseberry – not least because I still had last year’s fruit in my freezer. I’d been lapped by the seasons.
Before dusting off my old jam kettle, hanging redundant in the larder for years, I consulted my book of jam recipes. Its pages bear so many splodges that it almost counts as scratch-and-sniff. The book reminded me what a gloriously simple process jam-making is. It’s more like chemistry than cooking, and when it goes well, with the kettle full and fragrantly bubbling, it’s as exciting as discovering the secret of alchemy.
When my first batch produced the perfect set, I was glad I hadn’t forgotten how to do it. Jam-making is thus rather like riding a bicycle, only stickier.
The Joy of Jam
And what a difference there is in the taste! Home-made jam is to factory jam as swimming in the sea is to a dip in Yate pool. It’s like seeing an Old Master in a gallery rather than in a picture book, or viewing a landscape with the naked eye rather than through a camera lens. It’s a genuine, all-round sensory experience.
My first taste of this batch of gleaming red gooseberry and apple jam, a tantalising medley of colour, sharpness and sweetness, put me in mind of the moment when I got my first prescription glasses and looked out of the window at the woodland on the hill beyond the garden.
“My goodness, have those trees always had so many separate leaves?” I wondered, used to seeing just a large green blur.
My biggest problem now will be to make these jars last. After all, it’s never too early to start planning for the Hawkesbury Show…
You might enjoy some of my previous posts about the village show: