Monday, September 03, 2007

Plum Jam for Tea

Shakespeare once wrote, “Some people are born jam makers, some achieve jam making, and other have jam making thrust upon them”. Actually he didn’t, but if he had been around our place recently he would have done.

It has no longer become necessary for us to go out and forage for tasty treats, they have found us and, slightly distressingly, they have brought their friends along for the party. Knowing nothing about gardens apart from what I have accidentally stumbled across this year, it appears that by sheer accident FTC has a garden where plants love to grow … and grow … and grow …

Faced with a plum tree that was more purple than green, Keith decided that unless I stopped his precious four wheeled babies from getting a new splat effect paintjob, the tree was history.

Faced with a stubborn Keith, I decided to offer plums on a local ‘swapshop’ for anyone brave, or stupid enough to come and get them.

Apparently basket wielding, ladder climbing, bargain hunters are even less popular with the man of the house than the offending fruit had been, so in a cunning ploy to foil their efforts, he decided to enlist the help of our friend Hen to plunder what was left on the tree.

In the spirit of education this might be a good time to impart some pearls of wisdom learned from their efforts.

1. The bravado of a man is increased by roughly 10x when around other men.
2. The common sense of a man is decreased by roughly the same ratio
3. Drinking moonshine before climbing a tree does not improve fruit picking skills.
4. Moonshine also prevents a man from identifying how rotten a branch is before they climb onto it.
5. Skoda Rapides make good landing mats.
6. Boxes of plums do not.
7. A man can make a competition of almost any activity, including plum picking.
8. The success of any fruit picking enterprise is gauged by the size of the resulting haul.
9. Men expect appreciation when presenting the results of their labour and take a dim view of being questioned as to exactly what they expect to have done with a hundred weight of over-ripe plums.

So, to go back to my first statement, some people have jam making thrust upon them.

It’s a black art this jam making business. Hours of measuring, and chopping, and sifting, slicing open of fingers, boiling and straining and you’re left with a pot of superheated, strangely coloured, sugary goodness that scalds your nostrils when you lift the pan lid and defies any attempt to work out whether it’s in fact ready to be slopped into your freshly sterilised jars.

Plates in freezers, thermometers, backs of spoons, none of them make the slightest bit of sense when you’re trying to work these things out and the difference between fruit water and toffee seems to be the same length of time it takes to run to the toilet for a quick pee.

Not only that, but it is virtually impossible to pour jam into jars without coating yourself, the jars, worktop and floor in scalding hot fruit mush, which I wouldn’t mind, were it not for the fact that what hits the inside of the jar seems to stay stubbornly watery, and everything outside, especially anything that has landed on anything hairy, such as a dog, seems to immediately turn into sticky concrete.

Which leads me to the final insult. Despite careful calculation, I always seem to have an extra jar of jam sitting in the bottom of the pot. Necessity being the mother of invention however the tea bags are now in the spices pot, the coffee is now in the tea pot and there is jam in the coffee pot – don’t ask me, it made sense at the time, and I had about 3 minutes before the only way of cleaning the pan was with a hefty dose of napalm.

Despite all of the above, there is something very soothing about making jam. Even if my current efforts are more ably consumed with a straw than on toast, it’s been a fun foray into the domestic arts, and if anyone wants any plums, or jam, you know where we are.