Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

Pump up the fridge jam

Fridge jam exists somewhere between actual jam and fruit sauce.

I wonder at all my cooking over the years, I’ve never made jam. Sterilising jars and bubbling huge caldrons of fruit and sugar, adding pectin – it all comes across as a little bit too daunting. Maybe it’s just my inherent laziness, I don’t know.

Consequently, I seem to be overly reliant on others to provide those jars of berry goodness. My mother, for example, makes a mean gooseberry jam and then there was that memorable batch of blackberry from which I managed to purloin three jars.

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It was, quite possibly the best jam I have ever tasted and it was all the more gratifying because I’d picked the blackberries myself the day previous.

In the mornings, as a wake-up call, it was irresistible on toast with a big mug of tea. I think the three jars lasted me a fortnight.

And yet, as a second fiddle to making my own jam, I do, on occasion make what is commonly referred to as fridge jam.

This is a concept I picked up from a Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall programme once, ‘River Cottage: The Quickening’ or something it was called.

At any rate, culinary speaking fridge jam exists somewhere between actual jam and fruit sauce and since both concepts are beloved of all gluttons, fridge jam shouldn’t be ignored as a concept.

Hugh and the other exponents of this most versatile of jams would have you making those huge caldrons of stuff, which is, as I’ve mentioned, are a bit of a mission. My take on fridge jam is much more low key, pared back and dare I say it, handier.

Ultimately, my exploits in fridge jam make only one jarful. You could make more if you wanted but with one jar, you can knock it up on a Sunday morning as you’re waiting for your eggs to boil. And there’s none of this measuring or weighing either.

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The finished product you can still have on toast but it’s a sharper version of what you would ordinarily appreciate as jam. You can blitz it and pour over ice-cream or rice pudding or custard or anything in fact which calls an injection of fruity freshness.

Or you can leave it lumpy and eat it with a spoon. Last Sunday at home, we were faced with having a punnet of strawberries turning the ‘best before’ corner and, LOATH as I am to losing food to natural wastage, I decided fridge jam was called for.

As well as ending up with a jar of sweetly scented jam-cum-sauce, the fact that you’ve cooked it, extends the shelf life even further.

Win-win!

TOP TIP

A piece of granary toast topped with peanut butter and a teaspoon or two of strawberry fridge jam is one of the wonders of the universe.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 punnet of strawberries or blueberries or two punnets of raspberries (since raspberries are lighter you’d probably need two boxes to make any quantity of the fridge jam)
  • 1 and a half tbsps of caster sugar
  • dash  of water

THE PLAN

Wash your fruit of choice and if you’re using strawberries, like I was, chop off the green bits and hull.

Dump into a small saucepan with a dash of water (two or three tbsps) and the sugar.

Bring to the boil and let it rip for about five minutes, stirring a few times to make sure all the sugar dissolves.

You’ll know it’s done when the fruit is soft and on the point of disappearing. If it still looks runny, just cook a little while longer.

Taste it at this stage and it should taste a little too sweet. If it’s erring on the bitter side add another half tbsp of sugar and cook to dissolve.

The thinking is: Since you’re going to be storing this stuff in the fridge, the colder it is, the less sweet it will taste: Cold nullifies sweetness.

So it should be slightly too sweet to taste perfect when it comes out of the fridge. Our girls don’t like things to be too lumpy so I  blitz my jam with a hand blender.

Blitzed or lumpy, pour into a tub or jar and retire to the fridge for chilling.

Then all you have to do is lick and scrape the pot clean and you’re done.

I don’t know how long a jar of this stuff will last in the fridge but I reckon if you have it for any longer than a couple of days, you need to reassess your life choices.

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