Jam of Cane sugar and Fresh Figs

We have a fig tree in our back yard – just one. Every year it produces a lot of fruit through February and March. We are mindful that this is the bounty of nature. The fruit the tree produces is therefore meant for us and for the birds. The birds are Rainbow Lorikeets mainly. We often let our friends-visitors pluck the fruit and take some home. Figs are not everyone’s favourite fruit so there is often a good level of sharing between birds, home owner and the visitors.

This year we did not have a hot summer and the mildness of the temperatures may have slowed the fruiting of the tree. The tree was late and the first fruits were given over to the noisy birds. It could also be that I was feeling lazy, preoccupied or just waiting for the right moment. There of course was the fact that the grapes needed attention and I was addressing that by making my first Grape Jelly lot. You can see the Grape Jelly Recipe here.

There were a few people who helped with the plucking and so I ended up with about 8 kilograms of figs. Everyone will say make jam in small lots – it tastes better. I decided to push on make this jam in the large pot. Last year I had made jam with Jaggery and Indian Dark Rum. The people I gave it to had said complimentary things about that so I was going to go down that same route. Fig Jam made with cane sugar is quite the popular kind of Jam in France. Actually Jam of fresh figs (you can make Jam with frozen fruit too) and Cane sugar is the right name for this Jam. I also encountered Maggie Beer’s Burnt Fig Jam and was going to try that.

The Ingredients in this were:

  • Figs 8 kilograms
  • Cane Sugar (Gur) 3 kilograms
  • Juice and rind of 4 Limes
  • 1/2 Cup of Dark Rum ( I uses Indian Rum)

I cut the figs small and put it in a large wide bottomed pan. The pan went on to the fire. I added the sugar and let the whole mixture bubble away. The bottles were washed in the dishwasher, boiled in water and put into the oven to dry. The lids stayed in the boiling water. When the Jam was ready I bottled the Jam.

Then I was not happy with the result – so a week later I emptied all the jam back into the pot and reheated the Jam. The result was probably half way to being Burnt-Jam. I bottled all that last night. In the midst of my jam making I got a call from Alberto in Milan. Which was quite lovely – indeed. I was a bit unhappy even after all this Jam making. My jam was a bit dark and I had seen images on the internet of this reddish fig jam. So this morning I made 1 kilogram of Fig Jam with white sugar – the images are of todays Jam making session – hence the white sugar.

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Grape Jelly Recipe

This is a post about harvesting grapes from my backyard and then making Jelly from the grapes.

We have a single vine in our backyard and it throws up a profusion of grapes every year. One year, on black saturday, the heat dried all the grapes on the vine – we wondered if they had become sultanas. We pluck grapes, hand them out to visitors and there is a still quite a lot left over. Like the sole fig tree which generates two harvests a year the grapes too needed a processing activity. So I approached the vine yesterday, a sunny saturday (which later turned violently stormy), with a basket and a pair of clippers. When I had finished I had 10 kilograms of grapes. Which was now a problem. I would have to do something with them – the option of giving them to others is not available because these grapes have seeds (first barrier to eating them for people who have grown used to seedless grapes), plus they have thick skins (which are good for protecting them till we want to do something with them) another negative.

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I went online to find what else could be done with grapes. There was the grapes in the casserole recipe that looked interesting. Eventually I settle for the Grape-Jelly option. The recipe is simple:

1 Grape + 1/2 Sugar + some Lemon + some source of pectin.

So here is the GRAPE JELLY making process that I went through:

  1. I had some jars I had picked up on a trip to Bright over summer. Put jars to boil in water, put the lids into the water. I gave the jars about 20 minutes in the water, then transferred jars and lids to baking trays. I put the baking trays into a pre heated oven (180 deg C) possibly for 10 minutes, then left them in there with the oven off.
  2. The grapes went into a big pan onto the gas (no water – though some recipes say add water). The grapes possibly took a while (45 minutes) because I was processing about 7 kgs. At the end of this period I mashed the grapes with a potato masher. Then poured the lot into a muslin draped over colander. The experts say they leave this for 24 hrs for all the juice to be extracted. I was in a hurry – so I got as much out as I could and discarded the leftover in the muslin into the compost.
  3. The juice then went into a pot, I added the sugar and boiled the mixture. I then added the pectin I had picked up (Jamsetta – 50 gms for each 1.5 kgs of grapes – so I added 200 gms of Jamsetta). The mixture came up to boil. I skimmed off the scum.
  4. I pulled out the two saucers I had cooled in the freezer. Onto them I poured a tiny bit of the mixture from the pot. This was to check that I had the consistency right.
  5. The the bottled came out of the oven, the jelly mixture was spooned into the jars and I capped the jars while still hot. That was 12 jars in all.

Now the process had a glitch the first time I did it: I had used less pectin in the first iteration. So the jelly did not set – it was a cordial at best. I had to go to the shop to get more pectin, then empty out all twelve jars into the pot and run the dishwasher with the bottles. The bottled went into the oven again and the test was run again too. The jelly firmed up nicely on the chilled plates. Now I have 12 jars in the studio – cooling and hopefully of the right consistency.

This is another post in the Preserves section of the slow food journal.