Comforting Spice Jam

Following on with my pear theme (please bear with me (AHHHHH, a bear is with me!) as I make my way through my pear recipes, I have gone through kilos of pears, thank you tree!) I decided to make a pear jam. I didn’t want a jam that you eat and think ‘yeah thats pears’, I wanted something that was different, completely yummy and comforting, like  soul food jam! It makes your kitchen/house smell fantastically wonderful as its cooking. (Ive been told a few times my house smells like Christmas when I make these kinds of things)

First let me tell you about my search for jars! Mason jars are everywhere here, apparently they are trendy but equally they are EXPENSIVE! So my technique in the UK was to buy super cheap jam, throw out the jam (seriously, I rarely ate it) and keep the jar, I think I was paying like 18-20p and then I was keeping all my various jars from other food based items. When I moved all the glass was recycled and not brought over, glass is heavy (yo), even when empty and takes up space! And if I can get cheap jars in a country thats not overly keen on recycling, no reason to think I couldn’t get even cheaper glass jars in the NLs… I couldn’t have been more wrong! So my hunt for cheap glass jars started, cheap jam does NOT exist here, so thats out… what else can I find cheap? Imagine me stalking up and down the isles of Albert Heijn like a cheetah on the prowl, comparing prices, picking up jars, putting them down, putting them in my basket, taking them out, Im not kidding when I say this went on for over an hour.  I then decided to try Lidl, I mean they do cheap jam, right? Oh hell no… The verdict? Sweet onions… AH Basic Silverskin Onions at 45 cent, this is also Lidls cheapest product (silverskin onions) at the same price for a 320g jar… The next winner is AH Basic Apple Sauce at 49 cent for a 720g jar.

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45 cent for a jar isn’t a great price considering what I use to get, so I checked online and unless I wanted to buy a minimum of 200 jars at a time it wasn’t really comparable in price. 1 problem solved but another one created, do you know what stinks and I mean STINKS of silverskin onions? The lids which are on the silverskin onion jars! If you’re going to join me down this crazy cheap jar path, prepare to make your dishwasher stink and buy quite a lot baking soda! So the answer is to neutralise the onion smell with baking soda, you can either make a very thick paste with water and baking soda and leave it for a few hours or sprinkle (liberally) baking soda into the lid and leave over night.  I still didn’t quite get the entire smell out but Im secretly hoping no one will notice and it will soak up my spice smell instead…. One can hope and dream…

I came across this amazing recipe, which called for apples and I changed it up and made it my own, giddy up! This jam is great for you, your loved ones, friends, family, neighbours and makes a great gift!

Comforting Spice Jam

Makes: Just over 4 320g jars but possibly more  Prep time: 15 mins  Cook time: 2 hours  Total time: 2 hours 15 mins minimum, I did it over 2 days.

Required Ingredients:

  • 3 kilos of pears
  • 4-5 cinnamon sticks
  • a thumb of ginger (4-8 cm long) peeled
  • Juice and peel of 1 lemon
  • Teaspoon of nutmeg (you can even substitute Mixed Spice if you prefer)
  • peel of 1 orange
  • 1.35kgs jam sugar (Van Gil­se Ge­lei­sui­ker) – and yes, it is a lot!
  • 300ml apple cider vinegar
  • Handful of cloves

*My jam didn’t come as clear as the original recipe, as I used grated/ground spices, which darkens the jam, if you want a clear jam, you will need to use whole spices in their original form that aren’t grated/ground.

Now how to make this soul warming jam/jelly:

1. Peel your orange and lemon and orange, I just use a peeler as you can see. Juice the lemon. I didn’t use the orange juice, as I thought it would take away from the flavour if you’re being adventurous, go for it!

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2. Wash your pears and cut them into quarters or chunks, it doesn’t matter. You dont need to peel them or core them, pectin is in the fruit and flavour is in the core.

3. Chuck literally everything into the pan. It looks pretty and you can already get a hint the amazing smell its going to give as it cooks. Cover with 1.2 litres of water. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer on low with a lid on for 90 mins.

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This is what the mixture looks like after 90 mins of cooking, looks mushy!20171003_210604.jpg

4. Pour your pear spice mixture in a colander lined with a muslin or a J-cloth (which I used), suspended over a large bowl. Leave to drip for a minimum of 2 hrs (until it stops dripping) or overnight (this is what I did). Do not push the liquid though the sieve or your jam will become cloudy and potentially you could push through fruit pulp which would also change the consistency of the jam.

Be careful when pouring, the liquid is super hot and your cloth may want to escape.  When I started to pour into the j-cloth, it feel over and into the liquid meaning it wasnt sieving at all, 4 hands is kind of better than 2 with the pouring, to ensure no ‘accidents’ like mine.

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The hang to drip thing was never really going to work for me, if it wasn’t for bad luck, Id have no luck at all, and honestly I didn’t fancy pear spice juice all over my kitchen. I made a new plan a which involved 2 bowls instead of 1. I poured the majority of the pear spice juice over/into the largest bowl first. 20171003_211307

I was then only left with what was left in the fruit. I then put this over a much smaller bowl and left over night to ‘drip’ into the bowl. The liquid that came out of this was practically crystal clear. I then combined the juices from the two bowls and went to the next step.

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5. Before you start turning your juice into jam, you need to sterilise your jars so that they are ready when your jam is.  I put mine in the oven at 90-100C until the jam was ready. The lids you will need put in a large mug or pyrex bowl and cover with boiling water.

6. At this stage I had roughly 1.8 litres. Pour the liquid into a large pan along with the jam sugar and vinegar (at this stage I completely BALLS it up and my maths completely and utterly failed me and I added WAY to much vinegar but in the end it worked, horay).

Start on a low heat to dissolve the sugar, stirring constantly. Once dissolved, turn up the heat to high and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly for 15 mins, or until setting point is reached, skimming away any scum that rises to the surface. If you have a thermometer, you will need it! It helps dramatically when making these kinds of things.

This is me skimming away the ‘scum’.

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You will see the colour of the liquid change too, from a clear to a more red colour, this may have also just been a one off for me, as I had to boil it off for so long. Normally this will take 15 mins at a rolling boil. You must watch your mixture, as it will boil and bubble up the pan, if it looks like its going to go over the side of the pan, turn the heat down slightly. Quite simply, try not to cover your hob in jam like I did.

My maths was SOOOO off that I added WAYYY too much vinegar, that I ended up having to boil most of it off which took well over an hour!!! An hour of me swearing quite profusely at the jam and vinegar but clearly never at myself…

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7. Pour the jelly into hot sterilised jars and cover with the hot lid. (BE CAREFUL, EVERYTHING IS HOT!) Allow to set overnight. As the jars cool, you will hear the lids popping from the pressure, which is a good thing. You want them to be complete sealed and closed. I used a soup ladle to pour into the jars and jam funnel but a normal funnel will also work. Its always better to have more jars than you need rather than not enough jars. From all the boiling you can see that my juice reduce probably 5/7ths from the original juice, damn my math skills!

If you have a clear(er) liquid than I do, at the pouring into the jar stage you can add in spices to make it pretty, such as cloves, star-anise, or even cinnamon sticks.

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Finished product! Now just to give them to friends and family and how they dont question the onion smelling lid!

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Remember to share with friends and enjoy (they will love you for it)!

Notes: Being an American, having lived in the UK and now in the Netherlands, means that Im always confused with the English language, I should technically be calling this recipe jelly but after 17 years in England, I call it jam instead. In the UK American Jelly is called Jam, in the UK jelly is the American version of Jello, confused? Yeah, thats me constantly!

 

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