We had a long-term house-guest here in the Pink Mansion, who was staying in our box room until she found a place of her own in London. When she moved out, we were left with a few odd bits and pieces that she'd forgotten, along with a few bits that she's coming back to collect. I wasn't convinced that the apples and pears that were looking a little unhappy would be something that she'd want to collect at a future date. So I turned them into jam.

Jam-making is, contrary to common misconception, easy. In essence you boil together equal quantities of fruit and sugar until they reach setting point. Yes, you might add other flavours in the form of spices or alcohol, and depending on the pectin and sugar content of the fruit, you might have to help it along a bit, but that's it. And I don't mess about with a sugar thermometer, either. I check that the jam has reached setting point using the method my grandmother taught me: the saucer-in-the-freezer test. More on that later.

Both apples and pears have a pretty high pectin content and a low water content, and this recipe reflects that, using less sugar than you'd expect and some water. It's also a mangling of a recipe found in the PWMU Centenary Cookbook. (It sits proudly on my cookery book shelf, next to Claudia Roden's Book of Jewish Food.) It took me about an hour all told, and the results are pretty tasty. Wanna have a go?

Ingrediments - makes two average-sized jars of jam, sort of 340g sized.

  • 500g (1lb) apples and pears—in whatever ratio you have or prefer—peeled, cored, and chopped into small chunks (say ½cm or ¼inch cubes)
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 200ml (6floz) water
  • 250g (8oz) preserving sugar


Place two saucers in your freezer.

Put the apples and pears, together with the lemon zest and juice and the water, in a preserving pan1 or the largest pan that you own. Bring to a gentle boil over a medium flame and allow the pears to soften slightly. I gave it between five and ten minutes.

Add the sugar and allow it to dissolve before bringing the mixture to a rolling boil. You now need to boil the fruit and sugar until setting point is reached. And don't forget to keep stirring. Burnt jam cannot be salvaged and makes a horrible mess. I can't give you an exact time for setting point, it took my jam about 14 minutes. Yours might need 12 or as many as 20 minutes. Begin to check after ten minutes.

This is where your saucers in the freezer come in. To check for setting point, remove your pan from the heat, place a small dollop of hopefully-jam on the cold saucer, give it a moment and then gingerly push at it with your finger. (Be careful: hot sugar!) If the mixture wrinkles, it's ready. If it doesn't wrinkle, put the pan back on the heat, the saucer back in the freezer, and check again in another two minutes.

When your jam has reached setting point, remove it from the heat and give it a few minutes to settle. Then decant it into sterilised jars.2

This is delicious on toast, but I've some bizarre desire to swirl it through pear ice cream, too. I'll report back.

1 Preserving pans are large, usually stainless steel pans with a thick base to aid heat distribution and prevent the sugar from burning, and sloped sides to help with evaporation. Often, they have a bucket handle in addition to their two side handles. If you don't have one, it isn't the end of the world, choose a large pan with a thick base that can comfortably hold all the fruit and sugar.

2 Sterilise jars by washing in hot, soapy water and placing in a slow oven for 20 minutes.

Music to cook to: Daybreaker, Beth Orton

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