Although I love my current job as the marketing manager for a chain of cafes in Bristol (just a disclaimer, in case my boss is reading this) I do sometimes get nostalgic for the good old days when I worked in a café. The day to day banter with customers, many of whom were so regular I almost considered them friends, the hiss of the milk steamer and the easy access to coffee (and cake) at all times, made the job very enjoyable. Yes, you get the occasional off day when customers get shirty, or nothing quite goes according to plan, but by and large my most pressing concern was whether I’d ordered enough milk -and if I hadn’t I’d just nip up the road to the local dairy.
During my year working in this café in a sleepy little Devon town, there were two days that particularly stood out, both of which happen to be days I got to serve coffee to famous people. The first was Katherine Parkinson, a.k.a. Jen from the I.T. Crowd, who I was so shocked to see I almost spilt the tray of drinks I was carrying all over her. The second person is slightly less impressive (although equally exciting if you’re a food nerd like me) – Pam Corbin, the jam lady from River Cottage.
Pam’s book, Preserves, is one of my all time favourite cookbooks. I always dig it out whenever summer rolls around, so I can set about preserving all manner of fruits and vegetables. There’s no feeling like smugly lining up jars of homemade chutney and jam, knowing that you’ve got enough to last through winter. The recipes in Pam’s book are accompanied by charming little WI anecdotes, such as the time her strawberry jam won first prize at the Uplyme and Lyme Regis Horticultural Show. Well, we can all dream. When I met Pam, I babbled something about how I’ve made her quince jelly recipe several times and how much I love her use of elderflower in gooseberry jam, and just about restrained myself from asking for her autograph. Good times.
Recipe adapted from, where else, Preserves by Pam Corbin.
Using jam sugar is a bit of a revelation, as it helps jam made with low-pectin soft fruits to set more firmly. Pam often uses a mix of jam sugar and regular sugar, as I’ve done here.
Makes 4x 340g jars
700g apricots (prepared weight, i.e. without stones)
350g golden granulated sugar
400g jam sugar (with added pectin)
100ml lemon juice (approx. 2 lemons)
Prepare the apricots by removing the stone and chopping into quarters. Put in a havy-bottomed pan set over a medium heat with a tablespoon of water and the golden granulated sugar. Cook for about 5 minutes, mashing the apricots gently to help them break down. Add the jam sugar and lemon juice and mix well, then allow to bubble for 5 minutes, giving the mixture a stir every now and then to ensure the bottom doesn’t burn. Add the raspberries to the jam, and let bubble away for another 5-10 minutes. To test for a setting point, put a saucer in the fridge for a few minutes until cold to the touch, then remove and drop a spoonful of jam onto the saucer. Leave for a few minutes, and if the jam wrinkles when pushed with your finger, then the setting point has been reached.
To sterilize your jars, put in the sink and pour boiling water over the jars and lids, making sure everything gets a good soak. Lift the jars out carefully with some tongs, and leave to dry on a tea towel. When the jam has reached setting point and the jars have dried out but are still warm, pour the jam into the jars and seal tightly. Once opened, keep in the fridge.