Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Making jam- Fig and muscovado

As a jam lover, breakfast would not be the same without a serving of some home-made jam on a hot slice of our home-made bread toasted and dressed with either butter or some vegetable oil. For the last few months I have being decreasing my intake of butter and thus I have being dressing my toast with olive oil or rape seed oil. The use of rape seed oil is very controversial here in Spain since the time in the 1980s when rapeseed oil intended for human consumption was adulterated with some mineral oil and sold cheaply as a cooking oil; many people died and many more suffered ill health as a consequence.

As a result, you can never find this nice and delicate tasting oil here in Spain. We obtain ours during one of the several trips Ian makes back to the UK to visit friends and family.

Making this jam is a simple and very rewarding process. Today I want to share with you my method for jam-making. It is a method I have being following for several years and that works very well for us. We usually make about 30 kg of fruit worth of jam some of which we give away to friends and family.

Some cookery books present jam recipes in which you need to add water but I never do this regardless of the water content within the fruit used; the more water the longer you will need to boil the jam for it to set. Other recipes will advice you to use preserving sugar with added pectin, a natural substance that makes the jam set and fruits contain in varying concentrations. I personally no longer use this sugar. Other recipes will advice you to use the juice of a lemon per kg of fruit as a source of pectin but the acidity within the lemon may alter the resulting jam therefore I do not use lemon either.

Another alteration I have made to traditional jam recipes entails a reduction of the amount of sugar used. Instead of using equal quantities of fruit and sugar, I always use 0.5 kg of sugar per kg of fruit; using a lesser proportion will compromise both the setting and preserving of the jam. The use of sugar as a natural food preservative has being practised in home cooking  for a very long time.


1kg ripe figs
500gr muscovado sugar, this gives a lovely caramelised taste to your jam but you can use any other type of sugar.

Chop the fig and in a large cooking pan cover them with the sugar and leave over night. I always follow this step as it draws the liquid from the fruit. Just before you start boiling the fruit, stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved.
Bring the mixture to the boil on a high fire and stir constantly so that the sugar does not stick and burn at the bottom of the pan. When you struggle to control the spluttering from the mixture, lower the heat a notch. Remember you are dealing with a very hot substance that will burn you.
Continue  lowering the heat to a level you can control the spluttering by constantly stirring while ensuring you boil the jam at the highest possible temperature.

Once the fruit changes colour and becomes thicker, it is time to test if the jam is done. To test this, you need to have cooled a side plate in the fridge. Pour a spoonful of the jam on the plate, put the plate back in the fridge for a couple of minutes until the jam cools down and run your finger across the blob of jam. The jam will be made when you note a slight ripple forming on its surface.

Sterilize your jam jars in the oven for 15 minutes at 100 Celsius and bottle the jam. A bain marie will ensure your jam will keep for over 12 months without the need to use other preservatives.

Alterations of this recipe include adding mixed spice, cinnamon or vanilla. When adding one of these spices, I tend to use brown sugar with a softer taste than muscovado or white sugar.

Vanilla works particularly well with muscovado sugar but is best used after the jam has matured for several months. I look forward to opening the last jar from last year of jam I made with figs, muscovado and vanilla.
I hope you have a go at jam making and look forward to hearing from you telling me about your own favourite recipes. One of my favourite is fig with brown sugar and vanilla but you need to let it mature for a few months for the delicate tastes to balance out.


  1. Anonymous12:51 pm

    hi Ian, speaking of food, managed to bring the Flahavan's organic oats.
    Bad news is, broke my ankle on first day in Riba.
    brgds Josey :

  2. So sorry to hear that josey. Can you email me on lapasera3@gmail.com speak soon and hope you recover quickly. Xx

  3. I love making jam; opening a jar in midwinter can take me straight back to summer! Busy making marrow jams at the moment. I have just made marrow and ginger and will move onto marrow and apricot next (I think that may be a recipe from you). Peach and vanilla was a new one I made recently and hedgerow (sloe, blackberry, crab-apple and elderberry) is a firm favourite here.

  4. Peach and vanilla sounds interesting, I will keep in in mind for next year when I hope it is a better season for the Asturias peach.


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