Flavours of pinot noir jam
Plums usually produce a well set jam on their own, but blackberries and cherries do not, so you will need to add pectin. This jam was inspired by the - flavours found in pinot noir, and it is gorgeous with scones and whipped cream or sponge cake.
- Wash the fruit, pit the cherries, then place it in a stainless-steel pan with the sugar, lemon juice and pectin.
- Tie up the spices and thyme in a muslin bag, then suspend the bag in the pan by tying it to the handle of the pan. This allows for easy removal once the jam is cooked. Bring the mixture to the boil, then boil rapidly for 15 minutes or until it is thick enough to fall slowly from a spoon onto a chilled plate and will then wrinkle when pushed with a fingertip. During the cooking, skim off any froth that may form on the top.
- Remove the bag of spices, then carefully spoon the jam into dry, sterilised jars. Seal.
When preserving any food, it is crucial to get the basics right. First, prepare your jars by immersing them in boiling water for 10 minutes, or place dry, scrupulously washed jars in a 120C oven for 30 minutes. The jars must still be warm when you pour in the hot jam. Seal immediately with a suitable lid. Never place hot jars on a cold surface, as they may shatter; instead, always stand them on a tea-towel-lined tray.
There is much debate about how much sugar to add to the fruit when preserving, with many recipes suggesting an equal weight of sugar to fruit. I work on a rough ratio of half the fruit weight in sugar, as I prefer my jams soft and gently set. The actual setting point temperature is 104C, but the firmness of the set is really determined by the pectin content.
Some fruits, such as strawberries and cherries, are low in pectin, so you will need to add it in the form of apple juice or another fruit, such as plums, that has a naturally high pectin level. Alternatively, use a commercial pectin powder.
To test the pectin level of your cooked jam, place a spoonful in three tablespoons of methylated spirits. If a single, transparent ball forms, there is enough pectin present to set the jam; a few smaller lumps indicate a medium level of pectin; many small lumps indicate a low level. The jam can be eaten as soon as it cools, but I always put some aside to brighten the shivery days of winter.