A Lovely guest blog here from The Jammy Bodger on her jam making, book and overall enjoyment in preserving:
I love the name the Good Life in Practice because in practice it’s oh so different from the Good Life that we all often imagine (I was going to say people, but then I’m one of them!). For a start there’s an awful lot more mud and laughter but, more importantly, the Good Life in Practice is a lot more down to earth and realistic and you can get it without totally uprooting and moving to a small holding in the Outer Hebrides, unless you want to of course.
Take me for example. I have to really as it would be rude to take anyone else. When I say that I make jam for a living people immediately think “oh isn’t that lovely” and assume I live in a converted barn with a massive farm house kitchen (complete with aga of course) and a sprawling veggie garden. But I don’t. I live in a small flat without a garden where jam making is announced by the extractor fan sticking out the window and if I had an aga I wouldn’t know what to do with it.
The Good Life in Practice means doing what you can and working with what you’ve got. If you don’t have a garden they why not go and help out at someone else’s or at the allotments. My partner and I volunteer at our local organic market garden and as well as learning loads about seasonal planting and growing I also get my greedy mitts on lots of surplus produce, hence the jam making. I never planned to be a jam maker it just kind of happened. It was a great year for blackberries and all hedgerow fruit, (you can tell it was a couple of years ago, not last year, as that was dismal!) there was a glut of tomatoes and onions and the courgettes were as big as marrows. So I thought I’d give preserving a go and started selling blackberry jam on a cart at the local station. So far so down to earth but get this, it wasn’t any ordinary station, but a steam railway station, I know so twee I’m struggling not to cringe.
And then everything snowballed from there. I kept a diary of my first year jamming and couldn’t believe how much I’d learnt and how much existing jam books either didn’t even mention or totally glossed over. The first time I saw scum on jelly I thought I had to bin it as it set like a thick skin on custard and could just be lifted off. The 2nd time I stirred it in and the 3rd time I skimmed it off and ate it having realised it was just the product of the ferocious boil. Again, the first time I made chutney it was like water and the 2nd time it burnt on the bottom, so it was 3rd time lucky every time. But I thought it doesn’t need to be like this and a lot of people would give up after the first attempt, I know I would have if I hadn’t had a kitchen groaning with produce. Hence I got my diary published with the idea of it being a bit of a preserve making in practice, detailing what can go wrong and how to make it right. My book includes loads of hints and tips and easy to follow seasonal recipes that help you make the most of the fruit and veg available all around you. As I said not necessarily in your own garden maybe in someone else’s.
I get given plums, apples and pears from people with orchards full of so much fruit they don’t know what to do with it. We may have the hungry gap each year but we also get the summer months of plenty and it’s amazing how much fruit you can get in return for jars of jam and a plum crumble cake. And no my jam book is not a glossy book with soft focus sumptuous photos which you look at then leave on the bookshelf. All the photos were taken in my kitchen and are what it actually looks like, warts and all, well there are no warts, but there is a photo of clementines in brandy which people say looks like clementines poached in wee.(Who are these people!)
Maybe living the Good Life in Practice teaches you to go a bit more with the flow and to live your life a bit more organically. I never thought I’d be a jam maker, or an author, what could you end up being?
The Jammy Bodger, www.jammybodger.me.uk, email@example.com