Adventures in Jam-Making

Unlike Evelyn and Tallie, the mother and daughter in The Artificial Anatomy of Parks, my mum and I never made jam together. It’s not that my mum can’t cook – the woman makes a mean bobotie, and my favourite ever meal is one of hers that as a family we call ‘The Bacon Dish’ (I found out several years ago everyone else knows this as spaghetti carbonara) – it just wasn’t how we spent our free time. But I know that her and my granny used to cook all sorts of things after school, and since there’s a jam making scene in the book, I thought we should give it a try.

I went for rhubarb and ginger jam (not very summery, but it was a pretty cold, miserable day when we got down to it). I also roped in a friend of mine because really, everyone needs a jam-making fairy-godmother.

First problem was converting grams into lbs and oz (we have the oldest scales in the world). You need 1kg of rhubarb, or 2.205lb.


So pretty! This then needs to be cut up into 2cm pieces, like so:

jam 2

Then your jam-making assistant/fairy-godmother will need to empty a 1kg bag of jam sugar all over that:

jam 3jam 4









Next, take a blurry photo of some crystallised ginger. You’ll need 50g, or 1.76oz of this chopped up very finely.

jam 5


That goes into the mix, as well as the zest and juice of 1 lemon and a 4cm piece of root ginger, finely grated. Make sure you use a grater that will be particularly difficult to scrape all the excess shavings from.

jam 7jam 6






Give the mixture in the bowl a good stir, cover loosely with cling-film, and leave it for two hours. TWO HOURS???? (I’ll admit I didn’t read the recipe very closely before starting on this project.) Maybe you and your mum can pose awkwardly with the bowl while you wait

jam 8

Beautiful. Now, two hours later, it’s ready to go in the pan (the recipe called for a preserving pan, but I don’t know what that is, so I used a normal pan). It should be kind of juicy now (the sugar should have broken down the rhubarb a little). Stir on a medium heat until all the sugar is dissolved, then bring to the boil and stir continuously. After a little while, it should go from looking like the photo on the leftjam making (celery soup?), to more like the photo below:






jam in the pan

Now, put some saucers in the freezer. These will be important later on. Keep stirring the mixture for approximately 10 minutes. You’re almost ready to pour it into the sterilised jars (OBVIOUSLY HAVEN’T STERILISED ANY JARS. It’s okay though, because your jam-making fairy-godmother looks up how to do that, and it’s easy. Wash the jars in warm, soapy water, rinse, and put in the oven at 140 degrees until they’re dry), but first you have to test whether it’s jammy enough. Take out a frozen saucer, scoop a little bit of the jam from the pan using a teaspoon, drop onto the saucer and let cool for 30 seconds. Then prod it with a finger (preferably one with chipped nail polish); if it wrinkles, it’s done!

jam test


Now you just need to take the pan off the heat, let it cool for a few moments while you check on your now-sterilised jars, then ladle the mixture in and seal immediately.

jam end result

You’ve made jam! And it’s delicious. Thanks to the BBC Goodfood recipe here which I (sort of) followed.


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