Sweet Fruit – Grape Jam and Spicy Fig Jam

Green Figs and Purple Grapes, gifts from the neighbours

Making jam is easy; it’s like chemistry for beginners; if you boil stuff it reduces so boiling sugar and fruit produces a thick syrup and a complex carbohydrate in the fruit called pectin makes it set.

Some fruits have more pectin in than others; plums, pears and especially apples have loads, so for some fruit jams you may need to add a grated apple to help it thicken enough. In the UK Jam Sugar has added pectin but I haven’t bothered trying to find it here in Turkey and I use normal granulated sugar, it still works.

Here are the recipes for the jams I made yesterday. I have to say they have been popular at taste test stage and there are only two jars of each making it as far as the store cupboard.

Fig Jam with honey and nuts

This is a rich, spicy jam that smells like Christmas and is worth storing for a few months.

Cut off the stems and chop up a kilo of fresh figs, either purple or green – check for little wriggly bugs! I add roughly ½ the amount of sugar to weight of fruit but some may like it sweeter. Put sugar, fruit and a dash of water in a large pan with plenty of stirring room. Add a cinnamon stick and the juice of a lemon. Bring to the boil, stirring all the time and bashing the figs to break them up. The figs release a lot of juice which is why you don’t need much water and the sugar will dissolve into the juice as it heats up.

Boil rapidly for around about 20 minutes – don’t wander off and leave it at this point, keep stirring! The jam will darken to a golden brown colour and reduce by about half. To check if the jam is at setting point pour a small amount onto a cool saucer, leave for a minute and then push gently with your finger, if the surface wrinkles the jam will set, if it doesn’t, boil for another five minutes.

At this stage I remove the cinnamon stick and add a teaspoon of vanilla essence and a tablespoon of nuts in honey and stir well. Nuts in Honey are a common Turkish treat you can find in any village store or supermarket. It is layers of sesame seeds, pistachio’s, walnuts and hazelnuts in runny honey. It adds a certain texture to the jam and I like it. Alternatively you can stir in a couple of ounces of chopped walnuts.

Pour the jam into sterilised, warmed jars. Allow to cool fully then put circles of waxed paper on top of the jam and screw the lids on as tight as they will go. If I can’t find waxed paper I use circles cut out of roasting bags which are often easier to find in Turkey.

Grape Jam

Made from a combination of green and purple grapes this is a robust jam that tastes like summer; it is not a pretty and delicate jelly! Grated apple helps it set as do the grape skins.

Peel half a kilo of purple seeded grapes – save the skins. Put the grapes in a large saucepan and boil them quickly for about ten minutes until they have all burst and cooked. Push through a sieve to remove the pips. Put the juice and pulp you have back in the saucepan, add ½ kilo of seedless green grapes (unpeeled), a grated apple and ½ kilo sugar. Bring to the boil, and then add the skins from the peeled grapes.

At this point you may want to break up the green grapes a bit more to release their juices and a few presses with a potato masher does the job. Boil vigorously for 20 minutes until the whole thing is reduced, the colour is now a rich purple and the grape skins and grated apple have broken down. Then do the usual wrinkle test.

Pour into warm jars and allow to cool before adding lids and storing.

A person with better handwriting than me would put sensible and informative labels on their jam saying what they contain and when they were made. Those of us who live on the edge generally forget!

Serve with crusty bread, fresh figs and smooth goats cheese

These jams are lovely on fresh crusty bread and go particularly well with either goats cheese or the silky white breakfast cheese which you find everywhere in Turkey.

Coming next – adventures of the Queen of Leftovers.