Let’s get jamming with Thermapen

A few miles down the road from where I used to live as a child, was a Jam factory called Moorhouses and Sons.  Whenever I used to visit the dentist across the road from the factory, (what an irony) there was always a wonderful waft of sugary sweet fruit in the air. When the wind was in the right direction, the aroma would travel the 3 or so miles to where I lived.

I’ve made a few jams over the years, some successful, some not so. Getting the set right has often been a problem. But not any more. Last week I was invited by Thermapen to a jam workshop at La Cucina Caldesi Cookery School 

The Workshop at La Cucina Caldesi Cookery School

Our tutor for the day was Mary Cardogan.  A food writer and author of 18 cookery books spanning 35 years and has worked as deputy editor, then food director of BBC Good Food magazine for over a decade.

I was inspired to get jamming again, after listening to Mary’s enthusiasm about how easy and rewarding it can be to make your own delicous perfect jam. “Just make small batches”, Mary says. No-one wants a hoard of forgotten jars in the back of the cupboard. I have to confess to having had a couple of large Kilner jars of jam on my shelves for almost 2 years having never opened them. They still tasted good. Small batches from now on.

What I made

Mary explained that her Master Jam recipe can be used with most fruits, and that’s just want we did. I chose Peaches or were they Nectarines? Peaches have a velvety skin, while Nectarines are a lot smoother. I then chose to add a mix of Raspberries and Blackberries. With a total weight of 1kg, that’s with the Peach skins and stones removed.

Thick skins from fruits such as Peaches/Nectarines can become a little tough when cooked. Not nice in a jam.

I added my fruit and Jam sugar to a large, heavy based, deep sided pot, along with a good slug of Cassis Liqueur to complement the Raspberries and Blackberries.

In no time at all I was jamming.

And with the help of the Thermapen to guide me, my boiling fruit and sugar soon came up to setting point. A word of caution here. Boiling jam can be dangerous stuff and will splash you when the rapid boil gets going. If you do get splashed, run the offending wound under a running tap of cold water to help stop the swelling.  Take care when children are around as hot jam will stick to skin and continue to burn, which could cause nasty burns and scars, if not treated quickly.

Our small jars were already being sterilised in the ovens and with one final glug of Cassis Liqueur, and a quick stir of the pot, I was done within the hour. 5 jars of delicious jam to bring home. We went around the rest of the group to taste each others.

One flavour that stood out for me was the Greengage and Bay. I have a small Bay Leaf plant in my garden, I just need to get the Greengages.

A lovely day

I had a wonderful day and the La Cucina Caldesi Cookery School. We were very pleasantly surprised with a visit from Frances Quinn who came with one of her delicious fake cakes. I did a double take as I thought I was looking at two large slices of toast and jam. It was a simple Victoria Sponge recipe which Frances sliced and then toasted under the grill. It tasted delicious. Toasted cake for breakfast anyone?

We all came away with a very generous goody bag that included a Thermapen, and a signed copy of one of Mary’s Books ‘Good Food Cake and Bakes.

Giancarlo Caldesi, who founded of La Cucina Caldesi cookery school along with Katie Caldesi, dropped by to say hello. What a delight it was to be also gifted a signed copy of their book ‘The Gentle Art of Preserving’.

Thanks for reading this far.

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  1. I was so excited when we moved to our current house all those years ago to discover a beautiful strawberry patch! Our first summer here was spent picking pounds and pounds of juicy berries and making enough jam to rival any WI event! I never looked back and have made jams and preserves ever since. My favourites over the years have been Turkish Delight flavour (strawberry and rose), Gooseberry & Gin and Rhubarb and Raspberry.

  2. Victoria Prince

    Oh mine is definitely my grandmother’s blackcurrant jam – I don’t remember ever helping her make it, but it used to be one of the highlights of my year! She would make it and put it into jars with old fashioned labels on and it was the best jam I’ve ever had 🙂 I would have blackcurrant jam sandwiches for months!

  3. My memory was of making blackcurrant jam. I was using fruit from the freezer and I picked out two bags. At the time I did think, ”wow, this we picked some big blackcurrants this year”. And so I went though with the jam making, only as the fruit started to cook I noticed small brown lumps in my jam. I thought “what the heck are those?”. OMG, no wonder those blackcurrants looked big. I only put in one bag of my stash of sloes instead of blackcurrants. It made for a different jam. 🙂

  4. My jam making memory is fresh and new, although I recollected in the vague distance of my childhood my mum jamming the PYO strawberries we all picked and stirring away at her large shiny preserving pan full of bubbling marmalade, these are distant memories of me observing jam making. This week I became a participant and not just an observer as our CCC in Selby had this month’s meeting titled “Get Jamming”. So with the challenge set I had a go at blackberry jam. Just a small amount and although maybe not perfectly set, it tasted so much fresher and sharper than the shop bought offerings. And tasting that sweet oozy sharp yet sweet tang brought back the sweetest of sweet memories of our families jam making history & traditions and those memories are the delectable of all. Thanks Selby CCC for the memories old & new & for igniting a jam making demon within me!

  5. One of my earliest jam making memories is when we were camping in Wales one summer in the 1970’s when I was a small child. We found enormous numbers of wild bilberries in the hills which I christened ‘num-nums’. We picked so many my mum managed to make bilberry jam on the camping stove! It must have taken her quite a while to get it hot enough and she didn’t have any gadgets to help. I make a bit if jam now – but don’t have her skills and a gadget would help me out I think!!!

  6. angela ellerington

    I have only ever tried to make jam in domestic science lessons, not a good result. I have toyed with the idea of giving it another go, so many years later. The article inspired me ad I have recently been given a load of greengages and wondered how to use them, so greengage and bay jam could be the answer.

  7. My experience with jam making is with my mum. She is 87 years old now and every time I go back home she always has a jar of blackberry jam waiting for me. I used to help her picking and washing the blackberries for the jam, and I would also watch the pot. As she has got older sometimes her jam is very very sweet, and some other times too sour. But I love watching her making her jam. She is always very proud of it.

  8. My poor mum tried once when we were kids, strawberry jam, wrecked the pan, never tried again!

  9. As children we were always sent out picking at blackberry time so mum could make puds and jam. I recently had a go at blackberry jam myself but it turned out solid ?. This prize would be an enormous help to me ?.

  10. My first memory of jam making is attempting raspberry jam with my mum when I was about five. She had a recipe for making it in the microwave which sounded easy but it was a complete disaster. The jam over cooked because we had no way of checking the temperature. It turned to toffee, thick, chewy and completely impossible to spread or even eat. I was left believing that jam making was really hard and avoided trying it again for decades.

    I learnt about the cold plate technique for testing jam and decided to venture into jam making again with a glut of strawberries from a PYO Farm – I always pick far too many, I just can’t stop, it’s addictive. The jam was so much easier but it was still a struggle to know when it’s done.

    A thermopen would make jam making a perfect pleasure, stress free and delicious.

  11. My earliest memory was picking raspberries with my dad and making a beautiful tasting jam with my mum. I remember the deep colour of the berries and the sweet smell. Then smothering it over butter on sourdough bread. Delicious!

  12. My earliest memories of home-made jam stem from my childhood in the late sixties/early seventies. Towards the end of the school holidays my mother would take my sister and I, and usually several friends as well, to St. Martha’s near Guildford where there was an abundance of bramble bushes. We’d fill old ice cream containers and carrier bags to the brim with blackberries, taking them back to my grandmother to turn into luscious bramble jelly. I think the most memorable part is recalling the jelly draining over night in muslin cloths affectionately known as Nan’s old knickers. The resulting jelly would be used for jam tarts, filling sponges or spread on toast. But by far the best way was as the crowning glory to what we called Chinese Wedding Cake which wasn’t actually a cake at all but three tiers of cold rice pudding covered in creamy yellow custard topped with the wibbly wobbly bramble nectar. Lush.

  13. Lynne Skipworth

    I learnt my jam making during my allotment holding days. Great weights of raspberries and other soft fruits. Especially if I had been given care of an extra patch due to holidays being taken. So, I could live on bread and jam.

  14. We used to go berry picking at Harcastle Cragg with Mum, then return home and start the jam making.it was the only time mum would let me use the thermometer!!!

  15. I can remember as a child my Mum making Victoria plum jam in vast quantities! We had several plum trees in our garden and most years had a huge amount of fruit, it was my job to pick the plums and sort out the good from the bad ones. My Mum had a huge cauldron like saucepan thing that she used to boil it up in on the Aga.

  16. Janet Swart-Bridgman

    I have so many great jamming memories. Some of my earliest memories are scented with jam, like the greyish pink foam skimmed off strawberry jam and given to us children as a treat, or the time I didn’t heed my mother’s warning and peeled a seville orange only to be sorely (and sourly) disappointed by the lip-puckering experience (definitely not the sweet, juicy navel oranges I was used to!). But my favourite memory is of sitting on our stoep (porch) on the hot, sun-soaked bricks, bashing apricot pips with a brick just so to get the kernels out. Bash too hard and you’ll crush the kernel, bash too softly or at the wrong angle and it’ll go skittering away. An hour or so later, the stoep would be littered with sharp pieces of the pips, and I’d have a handful of apricot kernels, ready to blanch and add to the jam.

  17. I have always made jam. It is such a therapeutic exercise and the smell of fruit fills the house. One of my best memories of jam making was in 1975 when I was teaching at Oxenhope primary school in West Yorkshire. It was September and I took my class out down a lane by the school to observe the seasonal changes. I had taken plastic boxes with me to bring back leaves for some art work but we found loads of blackberries! We filled the boxes with blackberries and carried the leaves in hands.
    Once back at school we showed the cook what we had collected. After lunch was all cleared away she stayed back and we made blackberry jam. It was delicious and the children were involved in weighing, stirring, sterilising and keeping an eye on the temperature. The children each took home a small amount in various containers from around the school kitchen and classrooms.
    The following week we went out again and this time the cook used the blackberries in crumble. I have often wondered whether there is a profusion of blackberries still down that lane. The lane was also used in the film “Railway Children” with Jenny Agutter.

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