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It's been a big year for jam in our house, due to a glut of pears and plums in the garden and the afore mentioned cherries. I have worked my jam making machine VERY hard (playing Bob Marley in the background for motivation) and can heartily recommend it. One of the big advantages of it is temperature control, it works out boiling times for setting and although you still need to do the 'saucer test', I have found it gets it right first time most times.
We have loads of pears in the garden, which generally make rubbish jam but good flavoured jelly, the machine copes with this admirably too, I've almost preferred the jellies to the jams. Pear needs other flavours to brighten it and I've added sage and thyme and lemon verbena, all taste good, in fact I was so excited by my sideways move into new herby-flavour combos that I added basil to peach jam and rosemary to plum, both were fab.
To make herby jellies I added finely chopped herbs to the strained jelly liquid before adding the sugar to cook to the jammy stage. The more robust herbs such as sage and rosemary fair better at this. With the jams I added the herbs in with fruit once it was cooked and ready for heavy boiling. I guess you could also add a few more leaves after the whole thing has cooked to setting and before you bottle it, for extra colour, the green does tend to go brown due to the cooking.
Mostly I have bottled in recycled glass jars but i have been very pleased with my Summerill & Bishop posh Weck jars, which I will give away as Christmas presents. These hold quite large quantities of jam too, which helps make the present look rather special. S&B also do a nice big wooden lemonwood stirring spoon which is satisfyingly large for the job.
So now I have a LOT of jam and jelly. I have given some to friends but there's only so much jam one friend needs, so I've had to devise new ways of using it up. Hence my new jam cake. This is a Nigel Slater recipe (page 164 of The Kitchen Diaries if you have it) which I have added jam to and it is scrummy, very moist and comforting. I can tell if a cake is good in this house by how long it takes to go, three teenagesons and a cake loving MAD will devour a good one in minutes, I know a cake is a complete FAILURE if it lasts until the end of the day. This one went very quickly with demands for more.
Nigel's (adapted) blueberry and pear cake (with added jam)
250g butter, castor sugar, self raising flour.
a smidge of vanilla essence paste
2 pears cut up into very small cubes (don't bother to peel)
one of those punnets of blueberries
half a jar of pear and thyme jelly
cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
Add eggs slowly then add vanilla essence.
fold in flour and put the softly dropping mix into a lined sponge tin (mine is 21cm wide and 7 cm deep)
drop on the blueberries and pears, then spoon on the jam evenly in blobs on top of the fruit mix.
Cook 180c for about 45-50 mins.