I swear, this really is easy. You use frozen fruit straight from the freezer and jam sugar, which is ready mixed with pectin to assist in setting preserves. You can buy pectin on its own, but I like the convenience of the special sugar and I usually have a bag in the cupboard for making small batches of jam and chutney. This recipe makes a small amount, just enough for a little jar, perhaps as a gift, and then a few spoonfuls left over for yourself. I haven’t learned how to properly can or jar things, so that they’re sealed off and properly preserved, so making small batches is the order of the day for now.
The inspiration for this recipe is The Little Paris Kitchen cookbook, which I had on loan recently and took a few hints and tips from. The recipe in the book was for cherry and basil compote, to be served with french toast. This sounded lovely, especially as I’m very fond of adding fresh herbs to my sweet creations, but I liked the idea of it as a jam even more. I’d like to make it again, with cherries only, but on this occasion I went with what I could find in the freezer of my local supermarket, which was a mix of summer fruits.
- 500g frozen summer fruits
- 25g bunch basil
- 150g jam sugar
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Before I’d even started cooking, I was enjoying the look and the smell of these ingredients together. Fresh basil brings such joy to the air, with it’s green, sweet, aniseedy fragrance. The red of the summer fruits was a lovely contrast in colour, very fresh and… summery…
I put the fruit into a big pot, then put it over a medium high heat while I tore up and added the basil.
The fruit soon started to defrost, then to break down into a rich, sweet smelling fruit puree. Once there was plenty of liquid in the pot, I added and mixed in the sugar and balsamic vinegar.
As the fruit and sugar simmer together, the fruit continues to break down, sometimes assisted by a judicious prod with a wooden spoon, and the liquid thickens and begins to look shiny. It needs stirred frequently, to prevent sticking or burning.
You know when the jam is ready because it is sticky around the edges of the pot, leaving a ring where you’ve been stirring it, and when you run your spoon across the bottom of the pot it leaves a line, much like the parting of the red sea but, admittedly, less of a miracle. There is a proper test you can do, too – pop a plate in the freezer for a couple of minutes, then spoon on a little spot of jam. Leave it for a minute, and then when you drag our finger across the surface, it should wrinkle. This is when you know the jam will set as it cools down. I prefer my jam quite thick, so I boil it until really thick and sticky.
Once you’ve reached this point, set the jam aside to cool for ten minutes. Then, use a hand held stick blender to puree up the last of the fruit and the basil stems. Once you’ve got it as smooth as you can, scrape the whole lot into a fine mesh sieve over a bowl or pot. Using your wooden spoon, push the jam through the sieve. This is quite a satisfying process, and you end up with a ball of fruit seeds, skin and straggly bits of basil, and some very smooth, very thick jam that has to be scraped off the underside of the sieve.
This jam is a gorgeous, rich purple colour, and is full of flavour but neither too sweet nor too tart. The basil and balsamic really shine through, making the flavour more complex than your average preserve. I liked the effect of straining the jam, eliminating almost all of the seeds and giving a smooth, glossy finish. It sets to a very firm consistency, which is just to my taste – you could almost, but not quite, slice it into little squares and eat it like sweeties. It was also most excellent on a pancake. So excellent that I’m going to publish the picture AGAIN despite it also being in my post from Monday:
Why not try it out with your favourite fruit?