Jam and Chutney Unwrapped

At the end of June I was delighted to welcome food press and authors Lucas Hollweg, Catherine Phipps and Edd Kimber to my home in Somerset to make jam and chutney.
Lucas is the recipe columnist for The Sunday Times Style magazine and published his first book at the end of last year, ‘Good Things To Eat’. This year he won the Guild of Food Writers award for Food Journalist of the Year. Catherine writes for the Guardian’s Word of Mouth column and often reviews cookbooks for the paper. Catherine’s first book is out in September, ‘The Pressure Cooker Cookbook’. Edd is a king of The Great British Bake Off which he won in 2010. His first book ‘The Boy Who Bakes’ was published last year and his second book, ‘Say it with Cake’ is out in September.
All three had previously experienced the culinary delights of preserving fruit and vegetables and arrived with plenty of questions for me to answer. We had a good day chatting about preserves, especially marmalades jams and chutneys.
We started by making a combined black currant and red currant jam, a recipe from my recently published ibook, First Preserves: Jams. I decided to add a twist to the recipe and flavour the jam with Black Mountain Liqueur. Made from apple brandy and black currants, it was perfect for balancing the astringent flavour of the currants.
I explained the importance of the first stage of making this jam – gentle simmering of the fruit in water to soften the skins and extract the pectin and acid. The preserving traditions of other countries were examined. Some US and French cookery books call for the fruit and sugar to be cooked together, the difference between a conserve and a jam.
Once the fruit was cooked, I removed a teaspoon of the fruit juice, placed it in a ramekin and added a tablespoon of methylated spirits, to test for pectin. As both black and red currants are full of pectin the test produced a large clot, predicting a jam that would set quickly.
Granulated cane sugar was added to the pan. We discussed the merits of different types of sugar, especially preserving sugar and jam sugar. The latter was quickly dismissed as it contains added pectin and compromises the fruit flavour of the jam. Also it gives an uncharacteristic colour to the jam.
As soon as the sugar was dissolved, the jam was brought to a rolling boil and with it came questions about the best method for testing for a set. The cold plate, thermometer and flake tests were reviewed and I demonstrated my favourite method, the flake test.
This coincided with the jam setting after 5 minutes, the average time with a small batch yielding 2.25kg. I stirred 45ml of liqueur into the pan and the jam was poured into clean, warm jars and sealed with new twist top lids.
Whilst we were making the jam, I started to cook a hot gooseberry chutney. This is a favourite recipe that will be published in First Preserves: Chutneys, an ibook due for release in September 2012. All of the ingredients, except the sugar, were simmered very gently for about an hour. The contents in the pan looked unappetizing – a mixture of gooseberries, dates, raisins, ginger, onions and chillies in vinegar. After an hour the mixture became pulpy and sugar was added, and the chutney took on its characteristic rich, dark and smooth consistency. Had the sugar been added at the beginning it would have caramelized the flavour of the chutney. Adding it towards the end balanced the flavour and kept the colour bright.
In between making jam and chutney we enjoyed a lunch which featured preserves in each course. To start, a trio of my popular canapes; Three Cheese Souffles on Walnut Bread Topped with Date Chutney, Cheese and Chilli Chutney Biscuits and Filo Tartlets with Seared Duck and Tomato-Sesame Chutney. A Mango Chutney sauce accompanied our . main course, Tossed Garlic Chicken with Spiced Rice Salad. For dessert we had a choice between a Lemon Fudge Cake, with Lemon Curd in the topping or a Damson Chocolate Tart with Damson Jam in the base. A Red Fruit Salad with Cassis was served on the side.
Once the chutney was potted, there was time to pick gooseberries, rhubarb and herbs from my garden. Armed with the spoils from the day Lucas, Catherine and Edd went home to make their own preserves and, over the coming months, to enjoy the chutney and jam we had made in my kitchen.

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