Welcome to the Secret Garden behind Bobber's Mill in Nottingham

Welcome to Windmill Community Gardens, home of the Climate Friendly Gardeners Project.

We are a group of local people, helped by Groundwork Greater Nottingham, who are resurrecting a wonderful community garden in the heart of the city. You'll find us at the South end of Ascot Road, near Collins Cash and Carry. The Gardens are a great place where anyone can come to find out more about growing their own food in a changing climate. We cater for all abilities and welcome any nationality or age group.

Why not come and join us?

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Jam today + Clay Oven - next steps.

If you look at the blog regularly, you've probably worked out that the clay oven is a bit behind schedule, quite a bit actually. Today was supposed to be a session making bread and jam on site, but the timing meant this turned into making clay oven and jam, with bread courtesy of a well-known supermarket. If you are reading to find out how to finish off the clay oven, scroll down past the jam!

Framework Picking Team getting stuck into the job
Another group from Framework joined us to help us harvest our plum trees and find out how to make jam. This year the crop is much smaller than it was last year, but we were delighted that the group still managed to pick 10 pounds of plums (let's say 4.5kg for metric folk). They also picked 5lbs of blackberries, and a big bowl of elderberries which was a great bonus.

The recipe for making plum jam is very simple. Plums contain pectin, which is what makes the jam set, so there is no need to use special preserving sugar. We've also modified the recipe since last year to make it even simpler and quicker to cook by leaving out the water - we found we didn't need it, but the plums were very ripe and juicy. You will need a jam pan or other large and heavy-based pot to make this amount at once, as the jam will take up a lot more room as it boils. Our pans can take 9 to 10 litres, to give you an idea of the size. Also, it helps to have a long-handled wooden spoon and / or oven gloves to protect you from splashes of boiling jam.  


5lbs damson or plum flesh
5lbs sugar
knob of butter

Wash and stone the fruit. Put fruit into a jam pan or other large heavy-based saucepan. Add the sugar and a knob of butter, (the butter helps stop a build up of foam on top of the jam) and begin to heat the mixture. Stir until you can't feel the sugar on the bottom any more, then taste it, because the fruit can vary a lot in acidity depending on how ripe it is. You can add another pound of sugar if necessary. Now bring it to the boil and boil hard for about 15-20 minutes. (NB. We were using very ripe plums. If the fruit is hard you might want to add a little water and boil it without the sugar until it starts to break up. )

You need a specialised pan for a large amount of jam. A large, heavy-bottomed
saucepan will work but the jam ingredients must take up less than half its volume.

Then start to test for a set - put a few drops of jam onto a china plate, let it cool slightly then push it with your finger. If the surface forms wrinkles, the jam is ready. Turn off the heat and ladle the jam into sterilized jars. It also helps to have a jam funnel so you get more of the jam in the jar! NB. Always use a ladle - boiling jam could injure you if not handled with great care, and you should never put it in jars by pouring from a full pan. 

Now - spread on good bread and tuck in!

Despite our aim to be using wood grown on site in cooking, the fact that we needed to make 2 batches of jam at once and that it was very windy, made us decide to use gas-powered table-top stoves again this year.  With these, it is easy and safe to put them into cardboard box wind-baffles which mean we can get the jam up to temperature quickly. The rocket stove needs to be used in the open air, and we haven't organised a shelter system for it yet. However, we still aspire to having carbon neutral jam next year!

Meanwhile - more on the clay oven

The clay oven needs to dry fairly slowly, so our next stage was to clear out the dome and create a chimney area for it. Mark and Jon from Framework helped us to finish mixing the next layer of clay, and we set too. 

Mark and Jon also get stuck in - literally!

First, we cleared out all the sand from the main dome which took a loooong time. It helped to have the foil around the sand because we could hear when we had reached the clay edge with our trowel.
 Then we lit a few bits of paper in the dome to see if the smoke escaped enough to allow it to work. It did, so we began to create the chimney are and arch. Not all clay ovens have this, but it seems to help the draw to have a chimney. We made a mould for the arch as we had with the main dome, but this time we put bricks and then put sand around them, to speed up the process. We also put some drain pipe in too, with some paper wrapped around it to make it easy to remove from the clay. The process then was very similar to the dome, although we didn't bother with foil and we kept measuring the hole to ensure it would not get too narrow for our baking trays.

We built up the clay as before and then had to leave it until it had hardened, so we'll be back on it next week.
Clay oven with chimney after removal of sand

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