Friday 29 August | 2014
Having read through the history of jam, and some nonsense about its purpose being to preserve fruit, I have decided to stick with my own fairytale that it actually originates from Notting Hill in London. And if you wander along these beautiful streets, you may be lucky enough to be invited inside for some fluffy scones with fresh cream and the most delightful raspberry jam.
Jam has fallen out of favour with the breakfast set, which is not really surprising, given how easily a great piece of toast can be ruined with the mass manufactured stuff. These sugar syrups range from just plain bad – in mini glass jars masquerading as an artisan product, to the worst – those convenient little plastic containers that have a best by date of several decades.
Admittedly I can’t make jam, have no idea how to set it, and don’t know anything about preserving it either. But none of this matters, because this berry jam is so good that it can hardly be called jam anymore. No, this shall be known as liquid rubies, and you are going to love me (or hate me) for introducing you.
250g berries (I used two punnets of raspberries and half a punnet of blackberries)
1 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
Makes just over a cup, but the flavour is so intense that a teaspoon really goes a long way!
Put the berries, sugar and water in a nonstick pan over a moderate heat. You want the fruit to simmer, but not explode sticky red paint all over your bench. Keep it cooking for about 20 minutes, stirring every now and then. By the time it gets to the hypnotic, fluorescent red colour above, it will have reduced by about half and a sticky residue will be left on the sides of the pan.
Sieve the jam to get the seeds out, working it through with a wooden spoon. Depending on how fine your sieve is, this can a full 5 minutes! Keep going until you have only seeds left, because the thickest jam is scraped off at the end and it improves the texture a lot.
Return the sieved jam to the pan, heat through and adjust for sweetness. It should coat the back of a spoon, and will thicken a little more on standing.
Serve it over spoonfuls of ricotta (full cream Italian, don’t mess around) on the best fruit bread you can find. My loaf is a spectacular Epi Boulangerie production that is studded with hazlenuts, raisins and pistachios, and then toasted until golden.
Store your liquid rubies in a glass jar, safely in the back of the fridge, behind all the vegetables.
You can use a mix of fresh berries you like, but keep in mind that darker coloured berries such as blueberries and blackberries tend to be stronger in flavour than raspberries and strawberries, and can therefore overpower these fruits. I think frozen berries are often flavourless and sour, to the point where they can ruin the balance between sweetness and flavour, but hey, anything is better than Kraft, right?
The sugar measurement is not very generous and should be treated as a guide. Taste your jam towards the end of the cooking time to work out whether you need to sweeten it further.