Thursday, 13 December 2012


The other day a new-ish colleague came across a courier wandering round our office building looking lost. In his arms he carried a Lakeland box.

"Ah - I know who that will be for" she said, pointing him straight in my direction.

And yes, she was right.

Clearly it's no secret that I dabble in a spot of online Lakeland-ing whenever I can find an excuse. So when I was asked if I fancied trying out some jam-making kit the chances of me saying no were about as high as me not eating the entire box of Lindor hidden in the kitchen cupboard before I finish writing this. <wipes chocolate from keyboard>

The jars and jar labels were - even to a novice like myself - fairly self-explanatory. The matching lids (which come separately) do away with the need for fiddly waxed paper circles on top of the jam so that was a definitely bonus (memories of burned fingers during last conserve venture back in the 1980s.) 

The girl and I had planned to head off to the local pick-your-own farm and come back full of laden with tons of fresh fruit to turn into jams of various flavours. But the never-ending rain put a stop to all that (on the basis it was meant to be fun rather than an endurance test) and so we plumped for the tin (shown above) instead. I admit I was a little suspicious that it would be full of all sorts of nasties (as tins so often are) but was pleased to discover it's actually a pure fruit puree - plain and simple. 

Not having to wash/peel/chop/hull the fruit left plenty of time to prepare our labels...

(...although not so much that we entirely mastered the "J")

The fruit, together with sugar and water, bubbled until we hit a rolling boil and we tested for setting.

This was the bit I found slightly tricky - without a thermometer I wasn't entirely sure when (or indeed if) we'd hit 104C to ensure the perfect set - and actually despite trying more than once we never quite got there and the end result was a little runny.

But hey - at least it looked pretty...

So how did it taste? Because we used the puree rather than fresh fruit the end result was very smooth so if you like your jam with lumps in this wouldn't be for you. As we tend to buy the St Dalfour jams with no added sugar I also found this pretty sweet - but it has to be said that none of the recipients had any complaints about either taste or texture - and all were delighted with their homemade gift.

As for small girl...she loved it too and said that it perked up a slice of wheat-free toast no end. 

Note - when I reported the setting problems back to Lakeland they sent me a thermospatula to try. I haven't had a chance to make jam again yet but am pretty sure this will make a real difference as without it (or a regular jam thermometer) it's always going to be guess work when it comes to hitting the crucial setting point. I have tried it out on other things though and it's very easy to use. 

I'm working up to a spot of chocolate tempering with it next (because I'm completely slightly obsessed with the Great British Bake Off and they did it on there). Although it could well be that I have ideas above my station. 

Maybe I'll just go buy a bar of Dairy Milk instead.