What is Taste of the Past?

Taste of the Past is where I share my love of traditional cookery. Recipes from the days before TV dinners and microwaves right down the ages to the earliest cook books that I can get my hands on. I hope you enjoy my experiments as much as I do. Please share your own ideas, efforts and feedback in the comments.

Saturday 6 April 2013

Plum jam 1604

This is for the ladies of the Christ Church Ladies Group, and anyone else who would like to try a new way for making jam.

In 1603 a Lady called Elinor Fettiplace started a recipe book for own use.  It included recipes for medicines as well as food, many of which were donated by her friends and relatives. In the mid 1970's it was discovered by Hilary Spurling in an attic belonging to her husband's aunt.

After years of tracing the family right back to Elinor, although I think not directly, and cooking the recipes, Hilary Spurling published "Elinor Fettiplace's Receipt Book."  I have taken this jam recipe from Elinor and have used it so far for black currents, strawberries and plums.

"Take to every pound of plums a pound of sugar, then beat it smal, & put so much water to is as will wet it, then boyle it till it bee sugar againe, then put in the plums, & let them boile very softlie, till they be doone, then when they bee cold put them up, if they begin to grown then set them where fire is in a cupboard; you may doe respis this way & gooseberries, but you mush boyle them verie soft, & not put them up till they bee cold, & likewise may Cherries bee doone as your gooseberries & respis."

After the sugar has melted from the juice flowing out of the warmed plums

In other words,
Take 1lb of plums, wash, dry, chop up and de-stone
Mix 1lb of sugar with 1/4 pint of water
Gentle heat and stir until all the sugar has dissolved
Then turn up the heat and boil rapidly until it is 115 degree Celsius or until a small amount dropped into a glass of water forms a soft ball with very little or no tail.
Take of the heat and stir hard until the sugar crystallises.  If necessary put your saucepan in a large bowl of sink or cold water and keep stirring, that will cause the crystallisation you want.  
Add you plums
Put back onto a very low heat
The still hot sugar will gently warm the plums and cause the juice to flow
As more juice flows, the sugar will dissolve again
Stir gently from time to time (or chip away at the sugar) and gradually you will get a jam like mixture
Keep going with the gentle heat and stirring until a setting point is reached.

To check setting point:
Drop a small amount onto a cold plate and leave for a minute or two. Gently push the jam with your finger.  If it wrinkles on top then it is ready to set.  If it doesn't, boil or in this case warm gently, for another 5 minutes.

If it doesn't set quick enough then you can bring it to the boil but that might depend on how much time you have.
Once it is bottled I found that larger jars can take up to several days to set fully while smaller ones should set overnight.  I don't know why.

If it doesn't set in the jar then you can empty them out and re-boil, or store the jam jars in the freezer until you are ready to use them

One day I will try and do a post of ways to you can use up jam that has gone wrong, or rather still tastes fantastic but hasn't reached a perfect setting point.

Pastry case, plum jam, sponge cake nearly ready to go on top.

Spurling, Hilary, "Elinor Fettiplace's Receipt Book," Penguin Books 1987

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