Most people traditionally associate jam making with the later stages of summer when fruits such as plums and blackberries are ripe. Of course you can always start with making strawberry jam around June, but it seems a shame not to eat the early crop fresh, or just with sugar or cream.
However, the Gooseberry is a perfect fruit to kick off the jam making early with. It’s a pretty ugly fruit, with a horrible texture and something of an acquired taste. But it makes probably the best jam out of all the fruit: tangy, sweet with a tang, and a runnier set.
This is an easy jam for first-time preservers to make and usually sets nicely. If you’re lucky, the jam will turn from green to pink as it nears it’s jammy readiness! Put into jars as soon as the heating process is over. I use a glass measuring jug (which has been sterilised too) to fill the jars. Wipe off any spills (be careful, the jars will be hot!), add wax circles and jam pot covers, then screw lid on tightly. Enjoy on fresh bread and butter but equally good on toast.
Gooseberry & Elderflower Jam
3/4 pint water
3lb Sugar (preserving if you have but ordinary will do)
Elderflowers 5-6 ‘bunches’
A piece of clean (sterilised) muslin
A preserving pan or saucepan with a heavy bottom!
Have ready 5/6 1lb jam jars that have been properly cleaned and sterilised. I run mine through the dishwasher then dry them upside down in a low oven. Wax circles are good if you have them and transparent jam pot covers seal in the freshness and protect the lids until you are ready to use. I also have a funnel which makes pouring the jam into jars so much easier. (All readily available in high street or online – just search for jam making equipment).
* Wash your elderflowers and make a bag with the muslin to put the flowers into.
* Bring gooseberries to the boil and let them simmer until soft.
* Take off the heat, then add sugar. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved (if you use a wooden spoon, you can feel if there is any undissolved).
* Put back on to heat and bring to boil. Hang the muslin bag from the saucepan handle so that it is submerged in the jam.
* Simmer until you get to the jam setting point on your thermometer! If you don’t have one, use a saucer which has been in the freezer for a few minutes. Carefully, take a teaspoonful of your mix and put it onto the saucer. If, after a couple of minutes, you get ripples when you drag a spoon through, it should be ready. I always do this, even with the thermometer as sometimes it’s still a bit watery and may not set very well. You’ll notice that it starts to cling to the spoon and reduces down quite a bit once it’s ready. Remove the muslin and discard the flowers.
* Get that jam into jars!
I added my elderflowers when the jam was nearly ready as I didn’t have any muslin, so I plucked off all the tiny flowers and threw them in right at the end. I always add less sugar as well but if you are not confident follow the recipe so that the jam sets nicely, then if you find it too sweet you can adjust the sugar next time.
Most recipes say add a knob of butter at the end to disperse the scum but I find that this disappears on its own, so I don’t add any …
Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to taste the jam when hot as it this will not have a very pleasant outcome!