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As I was brought up by a craft loving family it was inevitable that I would follow in their footsteps and throughout my childhood I would enjoy sitting down and creating something, which would give me great satisfaction. Throughout the years I tried my hand at making my own clothes, designing soft toy patterns and making my own cuddly toys. Shortly after purchasing my own home I decided to follow in my father's footsteps at growing my own fruit and vegetables and it was a few years ago that I began to make jams and preserves so that I could fully utilise my own produce. Many of my recipes were obtained from the internet, but I wanted to own a book so that I can have them all in one place and give me fresh ideas of how I could use my fruit and vegetables. Consequently, a browse of the high street store named the Works led me to a hard covered book named quite simply, Jams and Preserves and this review discusses my thoughts.
The 96 page book, which is slightly smaller than A4 size immediately captured my attention due to the colourful and mouth watering image of a pot of strawberry jam on the cover. The book is broken down into eight easy to read chapters with the first page being as equally tantalising to the taste buds, which further images displaying some of the fruits that are used in the recipes throughout. This was the deciding factor for me when making my purchase as I could see that all of the recipes are fairly short with each being supported by a colourful image of the completed product. Recipe books that omit colour photos and use plain text with a few sketch illustrations are a no go for me, particularly as I find it's initially the image that attracts my attention and I'd like to see if my completed dish matches the one in the photograph.
The beginning of the book provides us with three pages of useful information, which details the equipment we need to create the recipes. We are advised to use a preserving pan manufactured from stainless steel, aluminium or copper and my first attempt at jam making was a little disastrous as I used a normal large saucepan, which unfortunately, was not deep enough and as a consequence, boiling hot jam spat all over my hob. Not all of the items are required such as a funnel to dispense the jam into jars or a cherry stoner and whether you purchase all the utensils is down to personal preference.
The second section of the book discusses the two different types of sugar used for making jam, such as preserving, which is used with fruits that contain a high level of pectin or specifically designed jam sugar, which contains a balanced amount of both citric acid and pectin. I found this section particularly interesting and beneficial, as it gives the reader a better understanding of the fruits they will be using.
One of the points I favour with the way in which the book has been presented is that the ingredients are listed in a column to the side of the recipe and a full page coloured image on the opposite page. In relation to each of the recipes we are provided with the amount that can be created in both grams and ounces and after a little practice with my favourite recipes I found it easy to judge how many jars each will fill. I had wanted to try out making jams and preserves many years ago, but wrongly thought it would be too difficult and that I would need a host of complicated ingredients. Through my internet research and trying out a few basic recipes before purchasing this book I was amazed at how easy it is to make jam and how few ingredients are actually needed. We are taken through an array of delicious recipes such as peach and passion fruit jam, which I have created on a number of occasions and various marmalades and curds using ingredients such as oranges, mandarins and lemons.
My favourite recipes in the book are those where I can use home grown ingredients such as strawberry jam, raspberry and apple preserve and plum jam. The recipes are extremely easy to follow and one of my favourites is blackberry and apple, which unfortunately, isn't contained in the book, but I adapt the strawberry jam recipe. Not only are the jams free of preservatives, but if you grow your own fruit or pick blackberries from the hedgerows late August/September, the only cost is the sugar. Whilst many cookery shops stock jam jars and posh lids I have a huge stash of old jam, marmalade and pickle jars, which are perfect for the job and I dispense my jams with a tea spoon.
There are a number of delicious preserves and chutneys that can be created from home grown vegetables, such as beetroot and tomatoes and having never tasted chutney before purchasing this book I was surprised at how easy it was to create and how delicious it tasted. I always have a giggle to myself when I'm creating my recipes as I often think of Barbara Good from the 70's BBC comedy series The Good Life where self-sufficiency was their chosen lifestyle. My husband and I are not fans of packet or tinned foods, particularly as we don't know what has been packed into them and at least by making my own I know that good quality ingredients are being used. There is a single page index at the end of the book lists each of the recipes and where to find them.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough even if you don't grow your own fruit and vegetables as all of the ingredients can be easily found in a supermarket. I used to wrongly believe that home made jams needed to be eaten quickly, which is the case for those with reduced sugar, but for the jams with a higher sugar content can be stored in a cool cupboard for up to two months. I have looked on Amazon and at the time of writing there are only used copies available from £2.37, but it's worth checking out The Works if you require a brand new copy.
I hope you found my review useful and thanks for reading.
Written by Gina Steer
Published by Parragon, London
ISBN - 978-1-4075-0366-0