We went down to the PYO farm again last week, this time to pick blackcurrants and cherries. However, on arriving, we met this chap who was raving about tayberries (a cross between a black raspberry and a loganberry, which itself is a cross between a blackberry and a red raspberry….the world of berries is a seemingly confusing one, yes). He told us that they were a more flavoursome version of the raspberry, yielding deliciously tasty jam. Kitted out in a rugged sweater, ready for the wilds of the tayberry bushes, he most definitely seemed to know what he was talking about….how could we not pick some? So, after getting horribly lost amongst the apple trees, strawberry fields, cobnut orchard, loganberry bushes etc…we eventually found the tayberry patch and joined our fellow pickers in filling up our punnets. As it turned out, in addition to being avid jam-makers (and the owners of a giant, but very timid rescue greyhound), the man and his girlfriend just adore India, having recently spent two years in Varanasi, him writing a novel and her mastering the art of ayurvedic massage – the people one meets in the fruitpicking farms of East Sussex!

Finding a recipe for tayberry jam was tough as the fruit itself is quite hard to come by (it’s not sold in supermarkets or even farmshops for that matter), but after scouring the internet, I found one on a jam-making blog, Hitchhikingtoheaven. I suppose one could use the same recipe as for raspberry jam, as the fruit itself is much the same…but I wanted a tayberry-specific one. The recipe is simple, easy to follow and apparently contains less sugar, allowing the slightly tart flavour of the fruit to come through. It came out surprisingly well, not too sweet – I was rather chuffed with the finished product and unlike the strawberry jam, it set perfectly, perhaps even a little too much. Sadly, it only yielded three (and a very small fourth) bottles….meaning that we are going to be VERY selfish and keep these ones all for ourself! Greedy, yes.

Makes 4 to 5 jars (half pint) according to recipe

Ingredients

3 lbs tayberries
1 ¼ lbs sugar (2 ½ to 2 ¾ cups)
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Preparation

– Before starting with the cooking, sterilize jam jars in the oven and place a plate and a teaspoon in the freezer for the wrinkle/setting test.
– Set aside approximately 1/3 of the berries.
– Combine the rest of the ingredients (remaining berries, sugar, and lemon juice) in your jam pan.
– Bring the mixture to boil.
– After the mixture thickens a bit, add the remaining berries – this is to give the jam a slightly lumpier finish (the original recipe says ‘after 10 minutes’, but my jam didn’t start to thicken until after at least 25 minutes…so I guess this is very dependent on how your jam goes)
– Boil the jam until it sets, skim off skum as it forms. In the original recipe, she states how her jam started to reach setting point after about 20 minutes, but mine was much much later than this. I found it very liquidy and spent much time boiling it, to thicken, probably getting to that point after about 45 minutes, at least.
To test your jam: remove the pan from the heat and perform the wrinkle test – place a blob of jam onto the cooled plate, return the plate to the freezer and after a couple of minutes, the jam should have formed a skin, causing it to wrinkle when pushed.
– If no wrinkles form, return to the heat and cook for a further 2 minutes or so.
– When it has passed the wrinkle test, take off the heat and skim the skum off the surface of the jam.
– Let it cool for 10-15 minutes.
– Stir gently to distribute lumps and pour into the sterilized jam jars. Place waxed paper discs on top of the jam surface and screw lid on tightly.
– Leave and allow to set overnight.

I have been doing obscene amounts of baking in recent days (including making scones at 8am last sunday morning, after returning from a relatively late saturday night out. Mad? Yes, perhaps), yet blogging so little. I have no excuse. Literally, none. I’m not working. I have bags of spare time. Organization/prioritization of my time is at an all time low…although I find this is always the way when you have very little on one’s plate. Let’s hope this changes before my Masters kicks into action…

Anyway – in recent weeks I have become moderately obsessed with strawberries. I just love how in these summer months, a punnet can always be found lurking somewhere in the fridge (put there by the strawberry fairy, yes), ready to be dipped into sugar, enjoyed with yoghurt for brekkie, turned into sorbet, smoothies, coulis, added to cake mixtures (the list goes on…); they have even recently found their way into green salads (not-so-well received by my mother though…)


Our main strawberry success (well, almost) has been our first ever batch of jam. My mum has been making marmalade for a while now – it even makes its way across the ocean to family/friends in Canada – but she has never ventured into strawberry jam territory. I, on the other hand, have only ever made lemon curd, which is wonderfully easy in comparison, but seems to spend the majority of its lifetime nestled in the shelf of the fridge, waiting to be plucked out of obscurity by the not-so-health conscious ones in our family. The jam, though, was a (mildly sloppy) success I’d say. We followed a foolproof recipe from an age-old copy of the Women’s Insitute Book of Jams and Preserves (which has subsequently gone missing – very upsetting!) – the only minor failing has been its runniness. It tastes wonderfully fresh, sweet and light, but does tend to slip off the spoon/knife onto the toast with a little too much ease. But who really cares about that?! (I’m going to blame it on strawberries’ low pectin content, although admittedly, it could have been improved with a little longer on the heat).


Makes about 5lb

Ingredients

1.5kg/3lb firm red strawberries, not too large preferably
Juice of 1 lemon
1.5kg/3lb granulated sugar

Preparation

– Hull the strawberries, throwing out any vaguely rotten ones.
– Place strawberries and lemon juice in a heavy-based saucepan and heat gently.
– Simmer very slowly for about half an hour (or until strawberries have lost their form).
– Whilst simmering strawberries, warm the sugar in a bowl in the oven/microwave (will help it to dissolve).
– Add the warmed sugar to the pan, stir until dissolved and turn the heat up until it reaches 105 C (setting point for jam), then perform the wrinkle test – place a blob of jam onto a cooled plate, return the plate to the fridge and after a couple of minutes, the jam should have formed a skin, causing it to wrinkle when pushed. (If you don’t have a thermometer, you can boil it for about 15 minutes and then do the wrinkle test).
– If no wrinkles form, return to the heat and cook for a further 2 minutes or so.
– When it has passed the wrinkle test, take off the heat and skim the skum off the surface of the jam.
– Let it cool for 10-15 minutes.
– Stir gently to distribute strawberry lumps and pour into warm, clean, dry and sterilized glass jars. Place waxed paper discs on top of the jam surface and screw lid on tightly.
– Leave and allow to set overnight.

(Be careful not to knock a freshly made/bottled jar of hot jam onto the clean white kitchen floor in the excitement of it all, as we did….!)

%d bloggers like this: