We’re Jammin’ – Great Ways to Use Real Jam
This is the time of year when jam makers are getting out the pots and pans to capture the flavours of summer. Seasonal strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries are being preserved like there’s no tomorrow!
Jam making is an old skill practiced from generation to generation. It was once the only way to preserve a glut of fresh fruit which would otherwise have perished quickly in times of no refrigeration. It’s thought that jam making first occurred in places where sugar grew naturally. Sugar is a vital component of making preserves, although today’s modern recipes seek to reduce amounts of sugar and use more fruit instead.
Culinary experts like Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School well remembers watching her her mother making huge amounts of jam, and her early days making jam at Ballymaloe House with Myrtle Allen. In a previous blog on Jam Making Tips she told us, ‘Preserving was always going on at home when we were children. Mummy always made jams and chutneys. We had lots of fresh produce in the garden, including a good selection of soft fruit. Plenty of blackcurrants, gooseberries and damsons and all these were made into jam in big batches. Preserving was part of daily life when there was produce available. It was no big deal.
I remember when I first went to Ballymaloe House after hotel school and my now mother-in-law Myrtle Allen announced at almost midnight one night that we’d better make jam because the strawberries in the fridge wouldn’t last till the morning. I couldn’t believe my ears! The memories of the mammoth jam making sessions from home came flooding back to me. I thought we’d be up all night!
But I was new and wanted to impress so I just asked how I could help. Myrtle asked me to weigh the fruit and called out instructions while she looked for jam jars and before I knew it, we had jam. That’s when I realised it is very very easy to make your own jam in small batches.’
Preserving Our Natural Bounty
Expert preservers like Wexford Preserves use old fashioned recipes and a technique handed down from the founder of the company. Ellen O’Leary first made jams under the Wexford Home Preserves label in 1988, gaining a great reputation for her beautiful jams, handmade from local home grown fruit.
Ellen established a business that thrives today, under the watchful eye of her nephew Tom Sinnott and his wife Laura. Fruit is supplied by local growers and traditional open pots are used, with a good old fashioned wooden spoon for stirring. The Wexford Preserve range includes a gourmet selection specially to honour Ellen O’Leary. Named ‘Ellen’s Choice', the range includes Wexford Blackcurrant with Rum, Strawberry and Vanilla Jam and Bramley Apple Jam, made when Irish homegrown apples are available in late September and October.
Vernoica Molloy makes an award winning selection of jams at home in Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Born and raised in Kenya in a busy household, growing up Veronica was very unused to kitchens. When she married Tony Molloy in 1967 she moved to Ireland, where the kitchen at home was a whole new experience! Veronica was lucky enough to have a wonderful mother-in-law who taught her everything she needed to know, including family recipes for delicious homemade preserves. Over the years while she raised six children, making jams was a hobby and Veronica sold her wares in local shops and country markets.
Nowadays, preserve making is a full time profession for Veronica. Her skills extend to jams and jellies at this time of year, plus chutney making later in the season when a glut of fresh vegetables are available.
Jams include Irish Blackcurrant and Stout – a hearty combination of homegrown fruit flavoured with one of Ireland’s favourite alcoholic drinks. You’ll also find Blackcurrant married with the French drink Pernod for a real kick, seasonal Rhubarb and Ginger preserve and beautiful proper Lemon Curd. In keeping with dietary requirements, the Crossogue Preserves range also features Diabetic jams and preserves.
Helen Gee is never happier than when she’s standing over a pan of fruit, watching it bubble and simmer and turn into the most wonderful jam. In her production house in Abbeyleix, Helen is often to be found stirring, tasting and testing for the ‘set’ of the jam and even potting and sealing her jars by hand. She hasn’t quite managed to retire yet, despite making jams for a living since 1998!
Traditional techniques are at the heart of the G’s range, with classic Irish flavours like Raspberry, Strawberry, Gooseberry and Blackcurrant some of the top sellers. When she’s not making jam, you’ll often find Helen at a country show or market. She likes to meet her public and get the inside info on what they like about G’s Jams. Proper face to face market research allows the producer to connect with the consumer - and of course, vice versa - which is just as important.
WHAT TO DO WITH JAM
- Fill a simple Victoria Sponge cake with your favourite favour of jam for an old fashioned tea time treat.
- Jam tarts are easily made with shortcrust pastry and your choice of jam filling. Simply roll the pastry out and cut into rounds to fit the well buttered moulds of a twelve hole tart tray. Prick the bases lightly with a fork without going right through, then fill with jam. You can use all one flavour or change it up with a mix of jams and even lemon curd. Bake till the pastry is crisp. Leave to cool slightly in the tray then carefully lift out the tarts and cool completely on a wire rack. Perfect for tea time and you can keep any leftovers fresh in an airtight tin. But they won’t last that long!
- Use jam as a filling for crepes. Looser soft preserves like raspberry work best for this.
- A serving of homemade rice pudding would be nowhere without a traditional dob of jam in the middle!
- Use strawberry jam to spread on the sponge before making this delicious old fashioned Traditional Irish Trifle in our recipe collection.
- Use your fave jam in a summer cocktail. Place a small spoon of jam in the bottom of flute glasses then top up with chilled sparkling wine or Prosecco. Give a little stir then float fresh berries in the glasses and serve.
- Have a jam sandwich! These are the stuff of childhood and nothing, but nothing, brings out the inner child in you more than some lovely bread spread with Irish butter and proper strawberry jam, served as a treat with a good old cup of tea. Tell us someone who didn’t love these when they came home from school?!
- Butterfly buns are a must for an Afternoon Tea. Make them with a simple sponge mix. After baking and cooling, butterfly your buns by cutting a thin slice from the top of each bun and cutting the slice in half to make two semi-circles. Pop a dob of cream and jam onto the top of the bun. Then tuck the straight sides of the semi-circles into the cream and jam so the curved edges make butterfly wings. Cute.