Saturday, 20 August 2011

What to do with all those peaches...Part 1

In a cruel twist of fate (and as the result of Recipe Junkie's impatience and slightly haphazard approach to overboiling fruit and sugar) Sarah Raven's Garden Cookbook is now recovering from a near fatal application of Nigella's Peach and redcurrant jam.

You see, I was getting quite stressed about all those delicious peaches that my friend dropped round yesterday, so much so that I woke up at 6 this morning and all I could think about was THE PEACHES. I know we could just eat them, but they seemed to offer so much potential that I couldn't just leave them all to the gannets - sorry - the children. (The blue one has already eaten 3 today, despite dire warnings about the potential repercussions of such an intake).

So there I was, with a cup of tea, perusing the cookbooks, half listening for the sound of the elephants thundering around upstairs ready to break my peace, but none came. Bliss.

Sarah seemed the best place to start but I was slightly disappointed by the lack of culinary imagination in her Apricot Peach and Nectarine section. She was raving on about apricots (and rightly so) but didn't have much to say when she actually got down to it, about peaches. So I turned to Nigella, and there we had it in Domestic Goddess - the perfect solution: Peach and Redcurrant Jam. I say the perfect solution because I have been troubled for some time by a bag of redcurrants sitting in the freezer and begging to have some kind of large scale culinary process applied to them. I hasten to add that the bag has been much reduced over the year from additions to summer pudding etc, but they are the remains of last year's harvest and definitely needed using.

I guess it's not necessarily the best time to start making jam but by 7.30 the kids were up, and had assumed their usual first thing on a Saturday morning position in front of the TV, and the husband was also otherwise engaged, so I thought, "Why not"?  Had a brief panic that the courgette and apple chutney making session earlier in the week might have wiped out my jam jar stock, but a quick check of the cupboard confirmed that I can indeed still make many more pots of jam before I run out of appropriate vessals. At least I'd checked first though, and actually was disciplined enough to do the sterilising thang first, rather than getting carried away with the whole chopping, stirring and boiling process and then realising at setting point that I have nothing clean to put the end product in. Believe me, it has been known.

Having got down the jam pan and cleaned it out again (last used a couple of days ago by the husband to start off another batch of homebrew), put a plate in the freezer, loaded up the fruit, sugar, water and lemon juice into the jam pan and set it off with good stuff and got it going, occasionally stirring and looking anxiously at it, the husband reminded me that I do in fact have a sugar thermometer. In fact, he is much better at jam than I am - I think I have a deep rooted insecurity that it will never set (I had a bad experience with some marrow and ginger jam a few years ago - more like syrup, although still quite tasty) - but I'm never quite sure that the thermometer is the answer either.  "Oh yes!" I said and rummaged around in one of the drawers for a couple of minutes. I retrieved the thermometer and stuck it in. Fortunately it didn't crack (the jam was already boiling at this stage) but the temperature shot straight up to 'jam' almost immediately. But Nigella said it needed to boil for 20 minutes. Cue loss of confidence, more anxious peering and a premature test on the cold saucer. Now this particular jam is supposed to be soft set but it definitely wasn't ready so I carried on going. After 25 minutes, the confidence had returned as had another of Recipe Junkie's kitchen flaws - impatience. "Why isn't it setting?" I asked the husband. "I don't think it's going to set".  "It will set" he said "especially if it's soft set". Cue more testing on the cold plate, and then just for good measure, I threw in the juice of the other half of lemon. Result! Hurrah!

Now I had thought that I would be clever and cover the board I was going to use to put the hot, filled jam jars on with kitchen paper to easily clear up drips. So as I was cackhandedly filling the jars with the ladle (I really need one of those jam pourer ladles with the spout I've seen in Lakeland), and putting the jars down, I forgot to notice where the egde of the board was, hidden as it was by kitchen towel. The rest you can imagine. Recipe Junkie never works on a clear worktop and this time the casualty was the Garden Cookbook, also open on the worktop at the time. However, I think it has been saved, and I have 6 jars of scrummy jam to go in the cupboard.

By the way, it did set - very solidly - I told you I was impatient: the additional half lemon might have been a step too far...

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