Story and photos: Vivienne Pearson
I don’t usually eat jam while typing, but I’m happy to run the risk of a stuck key in order to immerse myself in the subject matter for this story. The pear and cinnamon jam in question is the sugared fruit of my labour from a jam-making class I enjoyed on the weekend.
The workshop was the first in a series run at Harvest Café (in Newrybar) by Kate Walsh. More about Kate later – I want to stay immersed in the jam for a while longer.
A group of ten, all suitably aproned, listened to Kate’s jam-making wisdom before diving in to prepare the fruit and mix it with sugar and lemon as well as a few surprising ingredients, such as the cinnamon and chamomile tea. My last jam-making experience, as a child, saw the whole family spend one day picking fruit, then another consumed by stirring huge pots. Kate encourages us to take it a little easier than this. ‘You can make jam using just two punnets of strawberries and one cup of sugar,’ she says. ‘You can do kilograms of fruit to have it last for the whole year, but as we no longer have to do this style of preserving for necessity, a small batch is fine.’
Kate, a self-taught cook and ex-staffer at Slow Food USA, is an advocate of from-scratch, wholesome fare, but she is not a purist. For example, she introduces us to a commercial jam-setting product. ‘It’s totally fine to cheat at first then move onto more purist ways,’ she notes. She encourages experimentation and is not afraid to share her own cooking disaster stories.
Future classes will focus on less sticky subjects such as pickling, stocks, barbecue cooking, sausages, cocktails and all things dairy.
Now, please excuse me while I clean my computer keyboard (and maybe indulge in another piece of bread and jam)…
Info and bookings: realfoodprojects.com
Kate Walsh at work preparing quinces for jam