Fun fact: I arrived in Auckland two months today. Part of me feels like it can’t possibly have been that long already – there are still plenty of things that I’m not sure how they work (I only cracked the bus system the other week) or where to find certain things. But then part of me feels I’ve been here so much longer, probably because I’ve finally more or less got a routine going and am feeling more settled. Part of my routine involves going to the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings. There are several farmers’ markets across Auckland, and when I first arrived, I tried the one in the centre of town (and closest to me) a few times, but I was distinctly disappointed. Plenty of food to eat on the spot but not much in the way of produce, which for me is the whole point of a farmers’ market. A couple of weeks ago, I finally got around to trying the Parnell Farmer’s Market, which I’d heard was much better. And indeed it was, although there didn’t seem to be much meat for sale. There were plenty of fruit and vegetables though, including a whole blueberry stand. I hadn’t really planned on buying any, but on being told that they were the very last blueberries of the season, I happily trotted off with 1kg of blueberries.
You might think that 1kg is a little excessive, especially since I hadn’t actually planned on buying any… but I had a very specific plan for these very-last-of-the-season blueberries. I’m still struggling with the seasons being six months out of sync, so I know that come June and July when the Northern hemisphere (and many of the food blogs that I follow) will be full of summer berries, I’ll be really jealous, because it’ll be the middle of winter here. But I can still have blueberries this winter, because I made blueberry jam. Actually, if I’d been really smart, I’d have bought 2kg, used half for jam and frozen the other half for baking throughout winter. Didn’t think of that at the time though… Never mind.
I love home-made jam – it always makes me think of France. Making jam has to be one of the easiest things in the world. I know in my last post I said that tarts are super easy, but jam is even more straightforward. It is literally just fruit and sugar. And you only need 1 pot (granted, a big one), so it’s not a particularly space-intensive thing to make (which is excellent when you have a small kitchen without much counter space), and it also means minimal washing up (always a bonus). Many jam recipes call for a 1:1 ratio of fruit to sugar, but I find that these jams often tend to be far too sweet, particularly for a fruit like blueberries which aren’t particularly bitter to start with. None of my recipe books had a blueberry jam recipe, which surprised me a little, and the internet wasn’t terribly helpful either. Is blueberry jam a really uncommon thing? Why? Do people just not like it? So I asked my mum, and none of her recipe books were much help either. Even the one specifically about jams. We decided that I should go for 750g of jam sugar to 1kg of fruit and just see how it turned out. Thankfully, it turned out rather well. Terrific in fact. There’s an intense blueberry flavour, it’s a beautiful colour, and it’s not too sweet. Hurrah! So now I can have blueberries in winter…
Makes about 3 x 375ml jars
Very loosely based on BBC Good Food (June 2011)
This jam is wonderful for breakfast, but would also be delicious on scones with afternoon tea. To sterilise the jam jars, wash the jars and lids in hot, soapy water before placing on a baking tray and placing in an oven on low heat until fully dried (about 10 mins or so). I tend to like my jam without too many whole berries in so I mashed them quite a bit at the end, but that’s entirely up to you. You could probably reduce the jam sugar down to 700g (maybe even 650g), but will probably have to boil the jam a little longer.
1 kg blueberries
750g jam sugar
1. Pop a few saucers in the freezer to be used later (I ended up using 2).
2. Place the blueberries in a preserving pan or large pot (remember that the jam will increase in volume when bubbling away, so make sure the pot is large enough). Stir in the sugar and place the pan over a low heat, stirring regularly (the sugar will slowly turn pink and liquify), and taking care that the jam does not boil.
3. Once all the sugar has dissolved, stir in the juice from the lemon and turn up the heat. Once a fast boil – 105°C on a preserving thermometer – has been reached, time the jam for 8 mins. After 8 mins, place 1 tsp of jam onto one of the frozen saucers and place in the fridge (allow the jam to continue on fast boil in the meantime). After 1 min in the fridge, push your finger through the jam on the saucer. If the jam wrinkles (this may sound strange, but you’ll be able to tell exactly what I mean when it happens), then it is ready. If not, allow the jam to continue on fast boil for a further 2 mins before testing again. As soon as the jam is ready, remove the pan from the heat.
4. Allow to cool for 20 mins, then skim away any scum from the top of the jam. Using a potato masher, mash the jam as necessary (this depends entirely on your taste – I tend to mash it quite a bit, but you may find that you don’t want to mash it all). Ladle the jam into sterilised jars (a jam funnel helps considerably).