Monday, 6 September 2010

Outdoor Monday: Urban Foraging and Making Jam

I love foraging. Ever since I've moved to Glasgow, the annual brambling season has been marked in my calendar. Usually, the brambles are made into a jam or some crumble cake, sometimes mixed with other fruit, sometimes as bramble jelly.

Bramble season is only about to start in Scotland so there's another week or two to wait but thanks to a kind friend I heard about damson trees in the middle of the Gorbals (which is almost right in the centre of Glasgow). Not having much time to lose, Cubling and I went foraging in the urban park. We found damson trees heavy with fruit, from top to bottom, so that there was enough to be picked on Cubling's height. As much as picking, she enjoyed just being in this slightly wild spot of land, sitting down, playing with her favourite teddy, my camera and generally directing where and what we should pick.

The park is small and situated between council and private housing, close to high rise buildings. It's not very big, but still manages to have a sense of reclusion. The fruit trees and the overgrown area around them meant we were in a small but separate world of our own, away from the dog walkers and lunch break smokers, closer to the birds and the thistles. The sun came out and we spent some time just sitting, chatting and being there.

Our pick was about 2.3kg of damsons, and 300 gr of redcurrants, which translates to two jam making sessions. So in the afternoon, I tried my hand at damson/redcurrant jam:

Damson jam:
1.5 kg of damsons (I had 1.3 kg of damson plus 300 gr of currants)
500 ml water
a knob of butter
1.5 kg of preserving sugar (plain sugar works too as damsons are high in pectin and don't need additional pectin)

method: Remove stalks from the fruit, place in large saucepan (I tend to use my largest one for jam making). Slow boil the damsons with water until the fruit falls apart. (This takes a while, enough time to wash and sterilise your jars - I usually sterilise by sticking them into the oven at 150 degrees for about 30 mins, but having a microwave steriliser for baby equipment, I used this: 3 mins with a bit of water sprinkled into the jars.)

Now, the stones should start making an appearance at the top of the broth. If not, try a potato mashing tool to help the fruit along. You'll find that the longer you cook the fruit, the easier it is to spot the stones and take them out (however, you don't want to overcook either), it's still fiddly and not the easiest jam to make together with your toddler. You can continue picking out stones while you cook and jam the fruit, even when pouring it into the jars. You will get better at spotting the stones as you go along, honest.

Once the fruit has disintegrated, take off the hob, add the sugar and butter and allow some time for the sugar to dissolve. Once dissolved, boil for 10 mins, test for setting point (I never do that and it still works) and once setting point is reached, take off the hob and fill into your sterilised jam jars. I use a funnel for this, and also top the jam with wax discs, but this is optional.

The recipe makes about 6-7 medium sized jars of jam.



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