Jam. Marmalade. Chutney. Compote. Preserve.
They’re all very different things, I know, but for me, so long as I’ve got a dollop of sweet, tangy, syrupy fruit to slather on toast or sneak into bakes, then I really don’t care what we call it.
This recipe here is basically a jam because by it’s very definition, it is fruit that has been cooked with sugar until it releases it’s pectin (the thing in the fruit that makes it jammy… a scientific explanation there for you) and the water evaporates to leave a sticky yet soft mash of fruit. But there are so many different factors to consider with jam making that feel as though they will alter the final product and… I just can never really be bothered to factor them in.
So I know I’ve taken a right ol’ liberty here calling it a jam, but it’s what we call it here under this roof, so there it is.
That’s not to say that I don’t salute those that make jam with the upmost respect for the rules, God bless them, it’s just that this is a method I’ve found works for me so I stick to it.
I hear about a lot of different factors to consider: jam sugar, added pectin, fresh vs. frozen, sugar thermometers, putting a saucer in the freezer to check the consistency, perfect measurements of fruit to sugar etc – and while I have in the past tried to follow these recipes, I have always ended up with the same thing – a saucepan of crushed sticky fruit.
The good thing about the way I make it, is that I can make it to order. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy making a bigger batch and stashing the jam into little sterilised jars and storing them away for easy use, but this is so easy to make, I never have issues just making a tiny little batch for when I need it. Like if I fancy some jam on toast, it will take me mere moments to have a little cup of this stuff on the table without needing to make a batch big enough to spread the breads of the nation.
That’s why if you ever peek into the icy depths of my freezer, you will always find a few bags of frozen fruit, so that I can make this whenever the moment takes me.
You can use any frozen fruit here. Cherries, strawberries, raspberries, mixed berries, blueberries, blackberries – they all work well, and it’s the juice they express while they thaw in the back that give the jam a lot of it’s body. You could also vary up the fruit juice you use, I like to use orange here because it adds a sweetness in addition to sharpness, but you could also use a lemon if you wanted. In fact, a lemon is my preferred choice if using strawberries or raspberries because the acid cuts through their distinct sweetness. But truth be told, my favourite combination is cherry and orange.
Some thoughts and ideas for what you can slather this on include:
Of course, on some thickly sliced, buttery toast
Spooned on top of yogurt with some granola
On top of some French toast
Spread on to the base of puff pastry for quick tarts
Spooned into the centre of a Victoria Sponge
On top of a pancake stack
Stir through some cake batter before baking
As for shelf life, we’re not sterilising jars and preserving here. The recipe here is for a fridge jam, which means it’s made in a fairly small batch, can be kept in a jar, in the fridge, for up to 5 days. If you want something to last a little longer, I’d advise doubling – even tripling – the quantities below and keeping them in sterilised jars to stop any mould from going. That way you can store them in the cupboard until you need them.
If you want to go down this route, to sterilise jars, there are a few options. First you need an airtight jar, so something like a clip top will do. The method of sterilisation I use, as a flat dweller with no dishwasher, is to wash the jar in hot, soapy water and then in an oven preheated to 120C, I place the jars upright on a baking tray and then pop in the oven for 20 minutes.
The other way is run your jars through the dishwasher – you lucky sods. The key thing to remember with sterilised jars is after you have sterilised them, do not touch the insides with anything other than the jam – otherwise you’ll have to start again. So be careful when handling them – not just because they’ll be hot – but because you don’t want to put any bacteria into the cavity of a jar you’ve just sterilised.
But anyway… this recipe is meant for now, no sterilisation necessary. The quantities below serve 4 so it could literally go from pan, to a little serving bowl to the table, as it normally does with me. I promise you, once you have made this, you will find yourself throwing a pillow bag of frozen fruit into your shopping trolley every time.
Makes enough for 4
500g frozen fruit
200g caster sugar
2 tablespoons liquor (optional) – such as amaretto or Grand Marnier
- Drop the fruit into a heavy-based saucepan. Add the sugar and grate in the zest of the orange before squeezing in the juice (mind the pips). If using alcohol, pop that in now too.
- Give everything a shake about. The fruit will almost bind together and you will find it almost impossible to stir at this stage, but don’t worry. Just give everything a bit of a shake.
- Put the heat on medium, and bring the pan to a bit of a bubble. You will now be able to get in there with a spoon and stir the fruit around a little, just so it starts to break up.
- Bring the pan to an aggressive bubble and then turn it down low. Leave this to bubble away for 10 – 15 minutes, stirring it now and then. You want the fruit to burst and start releasing their juices, and you can assist this by carefully crushing them with your spoon.
- Once the juices have begun to evaporate from the pan and the fruit has started to thicken slightly, take the pan off the heat. Remember, this will thicken significantly as it cools, so you want to remove it from the heat when it’s slightly runnier than you would ideally want your final product. If you want a runnier more compote style of jam (particularly wonderful on pancakes) then take it off the heat even sooner.
- Allow to cool slightly for 5 – 10 minutes, just so that you can gage how it will set. If you feel you’d like it a little stiffer, pop back on a medium heat for another 3 – 5 minutes, stirring as you go.
- When you’re ready, carefully decant into a jug, serving bowl or jar (depending on if you are sterilising – see intro) and serve.