The soft fruit season is well underway and as well as feasting on some great quality and flavoured fruit, it’s also time for jam making. Strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants are at their very best and with the fantastic Summer weather, growers have been enjoying bumper crops of fruit. Pick your own farms have been extremely busy and many pickers do so with one thing in mind, making jam. Craigie’s Farm Deli and Cafe, just outside Edinburgh is one of the PYO enjoying a great year and they’re also running jam making classes for adults and children.
The team at the World Jampionships are gearing up for another successful competition and the search is on for this year’s world champion jam makers. The Jam Team is looking for the best homemade jam and jellies, made using traditional methods. With eight different category’s and whether an artisan jam maker or an absolute beginner, there’s one for you. There’s still plenty of time to get involved and full details of the different sections and details of where to drop off your jam can be found on the Jampionship website. The winners will be announced on September 6th at this years Dundee Flower and Food Festival.
I’ve made jam a few times and even though I can produce a reasonably decent pot of jam, I still class myself as very much a novice. But then, my very good friends, Iain and Kate at Perthshire Preserves are award winning jam and chutney makers, and recently I met up with them to have a behind the scenes look at their jam kitchen. They’ve both been making jam since childhood so in my book that makes them experts.
Kate and Iain haven’t decided what to enter at this year’s World Jampionships , but last year their blackcurrant jam and a favourite of mine, hot banana chutney both won gold medals. The day I visited Kate was making blackcurrant jam with Deanston Malt and she took me through the process of how she makes her award winning jams. Whatever jams they enter will be in the ‘Artisan’ category as all Perthshire Preserve jams and chutneys are made using small batch and traditional methods. In an average week, they make around 600 – 700 jars. No large scale commercial methods, as much local and Scottish produce as they can lay their hands on, no additives or preservatives and made with passion in their own kitchen.
What surprised me watching Kate and Iain was that they make jam in exactly the same way you would do at home. Jam pan and equipment just like my own, but in their case, a much less frazzled operation. After years of experience, they’re quite intuitive about the process, while still using traditional methods. Checking for temperature, the saucer in the freezer to check if the jam has set and the jars sterilised in the oven. It was all very relaxed and they just made it look very easy.
So how did it all start for Kate and Iain. At the age of 8, Kate learned her jam making skills from her mum and Iain is self taught. With impressive backgrounds in the hospitality industry, and a lifetime of making jam, they established Perthshire Preserves in 2010. Since then the business has steadily grown and there’s now over 30 varieties of jams, marmalades and chutneys in the range. I asked who was the best jam maker and no modesty was shown as both claimed the title. Having seen them both in action and tasted most of their products I’ll stick with saying that they make a great jam making team.
I had a great day at Perthshire Preserves and Iain and Kate did inspire me to think about entering the 2014 World Jampionships. The closing date for entries is 15th August and with so much wonderful soft fruit available, you might also consider entering some of your own jammy creations.