Welcome to the Secret Garden South of Bobber's Mill Bridge in Nottingham

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

We are a group of local people, who are nurturing a wonderful community garden in the heart of the city. You'll find us just South of Bobbersmill Bridge, on the allotment site at the South end of Ascot Road. 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 15 September 2011

We're Jammin', we're Jammin'...

We're well into the damson and plum harvest now and we've had a huge crop, so it's been a major job to keep up with the picking. Since the oven isn't available, we've been making jam. It's something that lots of people want to learn how to make, so we've had a lot of interest. We made our first batch of jam with the NUSA group of young people, who did a brilliant job and learned some very useful kitchen skills as well, like safe knife use. We then hosted the Framework Older Persons Group, and the Gateway to Nature Group who have done 2 different sessions with us now. We've even made jam in the dark! That was with a group of young people from Killisick who were amazed at how simple it was to make jam. Actually it's been the same reaction from most groups, with the typical comment, "Now I know how easy it is, I'm going to make my own."

First pick your plums

You might find a ladder useful - our special tripod one is brilliant.

The Gateway to Nature group with the fruits of their labour
Our jam recipe is:

5lbs damson or plum flesh
5lbs sugar
1/2 pint water
knob of butter

Wash and stone the fruit. Put 1/2 pint of water and fruit into a jam pan or other large heavy-based saucepan.

Bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit breaks up and makes lots of liquid (takes about 1/2 an hour as long as you keep the pot out of the wind!). Don't worry if there are a few lumps left. If you don't have much time or hand problems, it's ok to just boil up the whole fruit, though you will need to skim off the stones when you've made the jam.

A really long-handled spoon helps keep fingers away from boiling jam.

Add the sugar and a knob of butter - this helps stop a build up of foam on top of the jam. 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 back to the boil and boil hard for about 10-15 minutes.

Lisa and our visitors wait for the jam to finish boiling
Then 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. Keep some bread ready to wipe the last scrapings of jam off the pan and make sure to eat it!

Ladling the jam into jars. A jam funnel helps reduce spills.

Now enjoy your jam!

NB - If your saucepan is smaller than a jam pan, make sure you don't overload it, or the jam may boil over. The pan shouldn't really be more than 2/3rds full once the fruit and sugar are added. Boiling jam can cause severe burns and should be handled with care.

Picking plums at twilight with Killisick group

Environmental Note

We think our jam may have done the fewest food miles of any, as we're cooking it on site and using UK sugar, most of which is grown within 100 miles of Nottingham!

Eventually, we intend to use rocket stoves made from re-used cans for cooking. These will be great because we'll be able to use our own wood which we've coppiced from our willow trees. However, creating the stoves is still on the to-do list, so we are using a camping stove. We're still aiming to do this in a more environmentally-friendly way, so we've been experimenting with reduced water in the jam recipe (which reduces the cooking time) and building heat-retaining structures around the stove to reduce heat loss and speed up the process, as the jam needs to reach a specific temperature before it sets.

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