Jem Jally day with a bit of a Pickle!!

Banana Jam

The more people I mentioned to that I am going to make banana jam, the more I realise that many people didn’t know you could make jam out of bananas. To be fair if it hadn’t been for a jam book that my granny had pre 1940, a tacit brown faded book that my mother used throughout my childhood I wouldn’t know you could make banana jam either. The tattered book, with pages loose and so delicate that he has to be kept in a plastic cellophane bag for its fragility. This book contains the most amazing amount of recipes making jam from most everything through twice that was available in the 1930s. in the index of the pencil and pen marks made by my own granny and later my mother, the marks showing me which were their favourite ones to make. Some of the pages are stained with ancient fruit juice and sugar marks. It is a treasured item and one that I will one day give to my own granddaughter or grandson, whichever follows my love of cooking.

However, in my usual fashion I have read the recipe, modified it and made it my own.

I took two pounds of apples that were in my windfall reject box. I cut-off the bits that I felt were good enough to eat, composting anything that I didn’t like the look of including the cores. I left the skin on and plunged them all into the container of cold freshwater to wash and to stop them browning.

Cutting the good bits off for use
Apples in water to wash and slow the browning

I guesstimated that this would be around a pound of fruit. I then drained the apple bits and put into my food-processor and mashed it tiny small pieces.

Smashed up

I placed these into a large preserving pan along with half a pound of preserving or lump sugar. I use preserving. I then added three tablespoons lemon juice. Cover and left to simmer for about 30 min.

Apple bits, sugar and lemon juice
Cooked for 30 minutes

I then took three pounds of bananas, these can be overripe bananas. Do not worry too much if they have started to go black, this is just a natural ripening process. So long as they’re not totally black they can have small black patches and so long as there is no mold.

Very ripe bananas
These are fine

I removed the the skins chopped them into large chunks and added them along with a pound and a half of preserving sugar.

You then stir and leave until it reaches jam temperature.

Jam temperature is not a magic temperature but one to which the sugar has to reach for its molecular structure to change in such a way that the sugars will help the setting process with the fruits and acids.

I use the sugar thermometer for this. You can guess this but I find it easier to just stick in a specialist sugar thermometer that actually tells you the temperature to which your food is at. Do not use a normal thermometer as they are not designed for the job and will break and spoil the food. Sugar thermometers are designed to withstand temperatures of up to 200°C. Jam needs to reach about 106 Celsius.

I bottle the hot liquid into jars. Just before I bottle I fill each jar with boiling hot water whilst the jars are on a tea towel, this is not to sterilize but to warm the glass. the tea towel is to help with the installation and stop the jars having contact with extreme changes of temperature. I then moved the warm jars next to the pan while still on the tea towel. Never the pan to the jars.

Warming the jars

I then use a ladle and place the hot liquid into the jars as carefully as possible. When the jars full almost full, with just a tiny air gap, I quickly grew the lids on, then cover with at least two tea towels.

Or cover in a tea cosy!

This is to slow the cooling process and eventually the jars will seal and you will hear a little pop. This is that little clicky seal on the top as it pops in, this can take several hours. There are other ways of sealing but I find that this is the easiest for the beginner. You can use cellophane lives and in fact today I had to as I had mislaid on my metal lids after I had bottled. This I did while the jam was hot. I find that when jammies bottled hot and sealed it has less chance of going all and lasts longer.

I bottle in jars that I have recycled from other things that I have eaten. this is part of my up cycling holistic lifestyle. I save things that are useful everyday. Whenever we have had used glass jars in the kitchen I thoroughly wash and store. However, you can always buy these things from department stores or online, always wash before use.

Preparing the Jars

I always use jars that have metal screw-on or twist on lids. A lot of people when making jams and jellies use cellophane lids to go on the to. There is nothing wrong with this except I hate extra waste. Why use a piece of plastic that is throwaway when you can use the metal lid that it came with, time and time again. Providing everything has been sterilized or washed thoroughly and there is nothing wrong. I all ways put mine through the dishwasher.

Yes I have a dishwasher which is always fully loaded so nothing is wasted space wise. I find it cleans everything better than handwashing and possibly uses less water because if I was rinsing the handwashing as many times as the dishwasher does, I would certainly use far more water. My dishwasher is a AAA rated so is as environmentally friendly as is possible. (Plus I will make it last for at least 10 to 15 years). The dishwasher will also reach temperatures that will kill most bacteria and viruses which in this day and age is is very important.

To remove the labels, the labels that don’t come off in the washing, the gluey bit, I use of tiny weenie bit of white spirit on a piece of kitchen paper. I hate using chemicals so this is under my category of essential use. You could try very hot water and some glues come off with very hot water. Some come off with scrubbing with brush or metal scouring pad. This you might say takes a lot of time and effort why not throw the jar away and buy some new ones on the Internet. . But my answer is this . . . . you can but I think you will find the time the recycling lorry has taken your used glass jar of to the recycling centre, melted it, reconstructed it and then to back you as a clean jar you would have saved the planet far better by doing it yourself. Reuse is better than buying new as far as I am concerned and cheaper

Some glue will only shift with chemicals

Before I bottle/jar anything, I make sure that the jars have been washed just before use. I do not dry the inside of the jar with any cloth as this could leave fibres behind. This wouldn’t be necessary if they had just come out of a hot dishwasher anyway.

This bottling and up cycling of jars can be used in any jam, jelly, pickling or chutney.

Apple Jelly

My apple jelly has been going out for a week now, I originally started with a my small bucket full of apples last Monday. These I sliced and had put into a large pan covered with water and simmered until soft, left overnight simmered again covered, the boiled again, cooled strained. I strained them through a large damask napkin (you can use a fine tea towel or jelly bag) this can take a couple of days and certainly a good 24 hours. You can’t hurry this because if you push it through to quickly it goes cloudy so you just have to wait for the natural process.

To my strained apple jelly water, I add one pound of sugar for every pint of apple water. This is then boiled until it reaches jam temperature (sugar thermometer). I then bottle as above..

Apple jelly boiling
Apple jelly bottled

Don’t forget to label and date as it is amazing how quickly you can forget when you made something. Some bottled jams and because can last for many months and years.

My mother had a large wardrobe to which she kept her jams and jellies and one of my jobs as a child was rearranging the new stock, putting it behind the old stock. Some of the jams were older than me. Some of the jams my mother had had re-crystallised I like sweets, for a 1970s child deprived of sugar in the sugar shortage, this was a real treat.

Jars labeled

Egged

As you may remember I over ordered on the egg front. Since then, I have been trying to think of ways to use my 52 eggs, which had been now reduced to 40 something.

One of my hubby’s favourite snacks is pickled eggs. As I had a large jar that I had found in my jar store this morning, I decided to try and make a batch of pickled eggs. I’ve never made pickled eggs before, I’ve never eaten a pickled egg. In fact possibly will never eat pickled egg in my life

Anyway I looked up how to make it and I hard-boiled a dozen eggs, cooled and peeled added to the clean jar (prepared as for jam). I then (as normal) made up my own recipe of malt vinegar, salt, sugar, black peppercorns and paprika. I warmed the vinegar spice mix and added it hot to my jar of eggs (the same as the jam) I then sealed and covered with a tea towel to keep warm.

Conclusion

Whatever Covid, Brexit, lockdowns or in fact the future may hold, one thing is for certain I will continue to try and make as much of my food as possible, to store it and to make use of what resources I have.

A large bin full of goodies headed to the compost bin tonight. Eggs shells, both from cooked and uncooked eggs, banana skins, apple bits and an egg box or several.

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