Jam. Jam. Jam. I love how the word becomes so many different things. A musical session. Something being stuck. A tight squeeze. A collection of traffic (also no doubt in a tight squeeze). And a solution of fruit, sugar, and sunlight in a jar.

One of my early memories is visiting my grandparents in Edinburgh, and my granny getting out the special plates, cups, saucers…There would be home baking of a high standard, there would be scones, and there would be raspberry jam. Seedy, jewel bright, definitely well set but happy to sit upon a scone.

I now have that tea set. I may not make my jam to quite the same set – I probably like mine a little looser.

But I also have memories of Robinson’s jam, at home, and its un-PC characters on the side, though I quite liked the notion of being able to save up coupons to get a badge of some kind. That never quite happened, but still. There was jam.

There must have been bread and jam. There was certainly jam in a sponge cake. Jam tarts. I don’t know how much was made and how much was bought – I suspect a mixture. Mum would have baked bread, minced her own leftover meat, so I think I can presume on some jam making too.

There is a telling moment in the E Nesbit book, Ballet Shoes. The girls’ family is hard up, and they are told that they can have bread and butter, or bread and jam, but not both butter and jam. (I hope I’ve got the book right – I haven’t yet checked it’s that one.)

As a final years of- and post-rationing girl herself, Mum would encourage me to have a reasonable amount on my bread – ‘not just a scrape’. I suspect it was some of the rationing experience, not wanting me to have that too.

But for all of this, I am a bread and butter OR bread and jam girl. I don’t really like to mix the flavours (though I happily mix flavours in other culinary pursuits).

In my first couple of years of full-time work, I would walk home across the city. This brought me down via the fruit and veg delights of Argyll Place. Plenty to try out. (I would then tend to get the bus the rest of the way if I’d bought a lot. That happened – a lot.)

I started by trying making microwave strawberry jam (Rose Elliott, I think, was the source of this suggestion). Great way to start making jam, get used (but not too scared by) the sudden bubble up of fruit and sugar.

I moved on to blackcurrant, raspberry. There may have been others, but really, once you’ve cracked blackcurrant and raspberry, most of your jam needs are sorted.

Rhubarb and ginger jam came later (see my post on rhubarb), and gooseberry, though these were considered more as treats due to the (relative) scarcity/cost of ingredients.

Actually, I also later got into bramble and apple jam, or just bramble jam. Perfect for making use of my foraged brambles, and I gained one young fan who was very happy if there were a bramble jam food parcel from time to time.

A couple of times, I organised a food swapping event at home, going by the name JamTastic. I still fancy reviving it. There are clearly jam and marmalade specialists out there, as well as makers of pickles, growers of veg, and more.

Over time, I have made a happy acquaintance with other jams, though these tend to be shop bought, again due to cost and scarcity of fresh ingredients.

Cherry jam, particularly glossy, and just grand with a nice warm croissant. Apricot jam, useful for sticking marzipan to cake, but good for other jam-intake moments.

Jam selections reach their height when combined with pancakes. Every now and then, I’d make a medium sized batch for us, get out the jams, syrups, honeys and allow us to mix and match. I do rather like some acidity to a jam that goes with a drop scone, so blackcurrant is great – as is marmalade, actually.

I’ve written before, I think, on the joy of jam making: the wonderful depth of colour as the fruit warm and burst; the cauldron like effect of making a big batch in a big pan.

I like the flow of jam making: putting a plate in the freezer, checking for a set. I have a device for helping get jam into jars, which is good, as is the chance to use a ladle for a change.

And I also like the labelling, the putting away. The sense of treasures stored up for another day. Jam IS treasure, a great use of seasonal fruit, a present in the making…So dive in.

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