Mel Selling on her craft of jam making
PUBLISHED: 11:31 27 November 2013 | UPDATED: 11:31 27 November 2013
Mel Sellings, the award-winning jam maker better known by her trade name Jammy Bodger, is passionate about her craft. Autumn offers a cornucopia of free berries and hedgerow fruit that can easily be made into jellies and jams.
All summer long my jam pan has hardly been out of action; early ripening soft berries were swiftly followed by plums and damsons. Summer fruits may have ended but there are still apples, pears and most importantly wild hedgerow fruits.
I love a spot of free fruit as much as anyone and brambles (wild blackberries)aren’t the only hedgerow fruit. There is a whole larder out there - sloes, rosehips, haws (the fruit of the hawthorn), rowan and elderberries. So don’t put away your jam pan just yet. There’s work to be done...
Of all the hedgerow fruits sloes pack the mightiest punch, providing an acidic hit that even the birds steer clear of. But mix the tartness of sloes with the milder flavours of rosehips and haws, the heady earthy mix of brambles, elderberries and rowan berries and the sweetness of apples and you’ve got a deliciously fruity tart preserve that can rival blackcurrant jam.
Hedgerow Jelly couldn’t be easier to make. Take your pick of all the hedgerow has to offer, mulch your fruit with some water, run it through a jelly bag, add sugar and boil. It is really simple as you don’t need to de-stone or peel anything as it’s all going to be run through a jelly bag. Plus you pick and prep one day and then set the jelly the next, so you won’t be sweating over a hot jam pan for hours on end.
The most vital piece of kit is a jelly bag and stand. These are available for about £10 on-line or from your hardware store. Using a jelly bag makes things a whole lot simpler; if you’ve ever tried to separate a stone from a sloe you will know it’s harder than separating a wasp from a blob of jam. This free fruit preserve is great spread on toast for breakfast or as a dollop on your porridge; it stands up to a strong cheese or ham at lunch and cuts through a fatty meat at dinner. It also makes a great Christmas gift as Hedgerow Jelly isn’t something you can buy in the shops, although I must admit I tend to keep it all for myself.
This recipe will make about 8 medium jars. Make this jelly over two days or make it in one – which ever you prefer.
Calculating Sugar Formula: 600ml juice to 450g sugar plus approx. 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1.5kg mix of sloes, haws, blackberries, rosehips, elderberries and rowan berries
1.5 litre water (enough to cover the fruit)
1.5kg apples (eating, cooking or crab apple varieties)
2kg granulated sugar
2 lemons (approx. 6 tbsp. lemon juice)
Day 1/ Stage 1 - Preparing the jelly
1 Pick your fruit then rinse and pick-over all your berries. If they are all mixed in soak the lot in bowls of water for 10 minutes, drain off any funny stuff that floats to the surface. If the blackberries have been picked separately just soak them and rinse the rest.
2 Rinse the fruit and then drain. Weigh the fruit and place in the jam pan.
3 Prep your apples. If they need peeling, peel and place in a bowl of water with lemon juice, if they don’t rinse well and use your fingernail to scrub at the top and tail to remove dirty bits. It is important to keep the core and pips for added pectin which will help set the jelly.
4 Dice the apples core, pips and all, weigh (there should be the same weight of apples as berries) then place in the jam pan with the water and bring to a gentle boil.
5 Reduce the heat and simmer the fruit until pulpy, for about 45 minutes, help it along by giving it a good mash with a potato masher every now and again.
6 In the meantime scald your jelly bag by pouring boiling water from the kettle over it in a small bowl, then leave it in the water until cool. Hang your jelly bag from the stand in the place you want it to drip through and place a bowl underneath.
7 Ladle the fruity pulp into the jelly bag, watching for cheeky drips from the ladle.
8 Leave the jelly bag to drip through ideally overnight, if not for a couple of hours or until its stopped dripping.
Day 2 / Stage 2 - Making the jelly
1 Pour or ladle the juice from the bowl into a measuring jug, take a note of the amount of juice and using the Calculating Sugar Formula (see above) work out how much sugar to add.
2 Prepare your clean jars by placing them in a cold oven then set the temperature to 110°C/225ºF/Gas Mark ¼ for 30 minutes. For the lids, ladle and funnel pop them in a saucepan of boiling water for 20 seconds. Finally place three saucers in the fridge for testing the set.
3 Warm the juice in the jam pan and when just simmering add the sugar and stir continuously until dissolved. Then add your lemon juice – 2 tablespoons for every 600ml juice or 1 tablespoon for every 600ml if you have used cooking or crab apples. Taste Test: Your fruity mix should be tart and sweet.
4 Increase the heat and look to set the jelly. When the jelly is boiling continuously (not rising up the pan) and making a popping sound take the pan off the heat and start testing for set.
Test 1: Use a wooden spoon to scoop some jelly out of the jam pan and hold it out of the rising heat for about 20 seconds then turn it on its side above the jam pan. If the jelly drips off like water return the jam pan to the heat and continue to boil but if it runs together and drips off in a jellified lump or two do the Saucer Test.
Test 2: Take one of the saucers out of the fridge and place a tablespoon of jelly on the saucer, leave it for 1 minute and then draw your finger through it. If the jelly holds together rather than dripping like water over the saucer and when you push through it with your finger it wrinkles and stays separate then it’s set.
5 When you are happy with the set take the pan off the heat and wait a minute for the jelly to settle, then skim off the scum for all you are worth, it’s easier when the jelly is slightly set (if the jelly sets hard in the jam pan, warm gently then pot).
6 Carefully ladle into the jars, use a funnel if you need to, screw the lids on tightly, wipe down the jars and place on a cake rack to cool. Finally label and date the jars.
About the Jammy Bodger
Mel Sellings has four jam pans but still thinks there is room for another. Having started making jam from brambles along the railway line in Wandsworth, south west London, after moving to Dorset she continued her passion using the seasonal gluts from Godlingston Manor Kitchen Garden in Swanage. This year her Seville Orange Marmalade won gold at ‘The World’s Original Marmalade Gold Awards’.
You can find more of Mel’s seasonal recipes in her new book Jam Making Month by Month; The Jammy Bodger’s Guide to Making Jam. With easy to follow recipes, as well as plenty of hints and tips.