An invitation to make a video about making Black Currant Jam to promote the World Jampionships in Blairgowrie, Perthshire was irresistible. Blairgowrie is synonymous with growing heritage soft fruit. It has a berry history stretching back to the early years of the 20th century.The town of Blairgowrie became the home of the Scottish Raspberry industry and acquired the nickname, Berry Town. Local residents picked the fruit until expansion in growing called for fruit pickers from other countries. During World War One, posters advertised for 4000 women to pick raspberries to send to servicemen. Today, raspberries are picked alongside strawberries, blueberries, gooseberries, red and black currants.Nearby, the James Hotton Institute ( previously the Scottish Crop Research Institute) researches and develops new berry varieties and growing techniques.
The World Jampionships, now in their third year invite entries from the UK and internationally to compete for the title of World Jampion. The competition grew from a desire to encourage cooks to use the world class berries available from the fields of East Perthshire and to create a legacy for the growers and pickers. With part funding from the Scottish government, a local council and enterprise, it is supported and managed by Blairgowrie and East Perthshire Tourism Association. Entries for the competition are stored and judged at Ballathie House Hotel – the premier Scottish House Hotel.
Blairgowrie High School provided the venue for the filming. It had spacious, well equipped kitchens and preparation areas. All of the equipment and ingredients to make the jam had been sourced for me, although I did use my own preserving pan- an unusual item to take on a plane from Bristol! The black currants were supplied by Thomas Thomson ( Blairgowrie) Ltd. The company sells their quality soft fruit to individuals and supermarkets.
To make the jam. I used the recipe in First Preserves, yielding 1.25kg of jam.
Keathbank Media filmed the traditional stages of transforming fruit into jam.
The black currants were gently simmered in water to soften the skins and release pectin and acid into the pan. After about 30 minutes, warmed sugar was added and the pan brought to a rolling boil. Within 7 minutes the jam reached setting point and was ready for bottling. To view the video click here.
With the jam made, the film crew turned their attention to Graeme Maxwell, a leading Perthshire based pastry chef. Graeme had arrived to make a mouth watering dessert using Blairgowrie berries and Mackays jam. I offered an impromptu jam masterclass to a group of older pupils at the school. We made two more batches of black currant jam – plenty of jars to promote the World Jampionships.