Aah, jam and chutney-making: one of those things that seems like an insanely complicated dark art until you actually try it, and realise it’s pretty much as easy as boiling an egg. I took a relaxed Saturday introductory class at the Make Lounge and emerged with fears debunked and four cute jars of tasty preserves to take home.
You don’t even need any special kit like sugar thermometers or fancy funnels: just a large heavy-based pan and some sterilised jars. Ingredients-wise nearly any fruit will do, along with sugar for gelling and vinegar for preserving, in the case of chutney. The tutor Chloe explained to us that high-pectin fruits can take normal sugar whereas lower-pectin fruits like strawberries need a little help with special jam sugar. During the afternoon-long class we made 4 recipes; two sweet jams and two savoury chutneys – the basic process is pretty much the same.
The process itself basically involves lots of chopping (a team of about ten of us took the best part of half an hour chopping 4kg of red onions!) then a lot of stirring and waiting for the jammy magic to happen. Luckily this involves bread, cheese and cider when done Make Lounge style.
While they bubbled away we got crafty decorating the jars with ribbon, fabric and sticky-backed plastic.
I think the idea with these sweetly-dressed-up jars was to give them as Christmas gifts, but I didn’t waste much time digging in and having a try. Purely in the interests of quality control, you understand…
The caramelised onion chutney is my favourite, and it felt well-deserved after chopping all those onions! I used up most of the jar making this near-instant dinner: just add the jam to shortcrust or puff pastry and top with feta or goat’s cheese for speedy caramelised onion tarts.
And I’m not usually a fruity jam kind of person because I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but this homemade blackberry and apple tastes truly sharp and bursting with berry fruit flavours, unlike any bought jam I’ve ever tried. I bet it’d be amazing in a sweet pastry tart.
We also made plum, orange and cinnamon jam and a sweet chilli chutney which I’m yet to sample. I’m really excited to have a go myself now and make some to give as Christmas presents.
There’s new dates for the Make Lounge workshop coming up soon, so keep an eye on the site for details.