1. To maintain in safety from injury, peril, or harm; protect.
2. To keep in perfect or unaltered condition; maintain unchanged.
(Abridged version published in Canta Issue 1, 2013)
Some of my friends travelled abroad this summer; they spent their Christmases in quaint English villages before seeing in the New Year at a London club, or partied hard until the sun came up in Sydney on New Years Day; those that didn’t leave the country opted for various North Island festivals, consecutive days of sun-bleached debauchery, seeing the new year in under laser lights amidst a crowd of thousands. My holiday antics were somewhat more subdued and undertaken a lot less further afield than that. I went South to stay with parents. I spent nine hours on the bus to get there. I camped a few nights by the lake. And then I made some jam.
I don’t know why I’d never noticed the cherry plum tree in our backyard before. I’m not quite sure how I came to be up my father’s ladder contending with the birds as I raided their summer banquet, nor can I explain the sudden urge to haul out my mother’s edition of Good Housekeeping in search of the perfect condiment recipe. But there I was, in all my grannish glory, mashing fruit pulp through a sieve onto an ancient set of scales, faithfully following a classic well-worn jam recipe, attempting to master the intricacies of finding the exact right setting point, and loving every minute of it. There is something special, something therapeutic about the simple process of preserving. And whilst I may have subsequently been accused of being boring, nannery, or even the dreaded indie “h” word, the reality is I felt like a school kid; heartily clutching the finished product, complete with homemade label and gingham-string-tied lid cap, saying “Look, Mum! Look what I made!”
And you know what? It tasted fucking good.
Say what you will; think what you like. I’m not suggesting New Year’s Eve at Rhythm and Vines is no match for a summertime jam making sesh; and I’m not saying overseas excursions ain’t got nothing on a good old pickle party. I am simply saying that, this summer, I learned that maintaining traditions can be a kind of adventure too; albeit a simpler and smaller one, conducted a little more quietly, and somewhat closer to home.
Cherry Plum Jam
- 1.8kg cherry plum fruit pulp (about two medium-sized bowls of unpulped fruit)
- 900gm of white or brown sugar
- 1 piece of fresh ginger
1 Wash your jars and lids in hot soapy water and dry them. Put them in the oven at 180 C for 20 minutes to sterilise them. Always have extra jars ready just in case you make more jam than anticpated.
2 Put a saucer in the fridge (you'll need this for testing the jam's setting point later on).
3 Put some of your fruit in a microwave-safe dish and cover with gladwrap. Cook on high for about six minutes. You can either leave the fruit to cool a while or get straight into the pulping part...
4 Place a sieve on top of a bowl and pour the softened fruit onto the sieve. Use a potato masher to push the fruit pulp into the bowl (splashes inevitable, safety goggles optional...)
5 Repeat the microwaving/pulping process until you have 1.8kg of pulp.
6 Put the pulp, sugar and ginger, if desired, into a big pot and bring to a boil.
7 Remove the brown foam that begins to accumulate on the top of your mixture with a sieve spoon.
8 Boil the mixture rapidly until setting point (approx 25 minutes).
9 After about 20 minutes, remove the jars from the oven (you want to ensure that the jars are hot when you put the jam in to avoid the chance of them cracking).
10 To test if the jam is ready, put a little bit of the mixture on the cold saucer from the fridge. If, after a couple of minutes, the mixture crinkles when pushed and seems a little thicker, it is ready.
11 Remove the ginger from the mixture.
12 Pour your mixture into the jars (you may want to use a funnel to help minimise the mess!)
13 Leave jars for fifteen minutes or so and then seal.
14 Stand back and admire your handiwork.
15 And then do the dishes...