Okay, the signs are all there:
- I’ve started picking the autumn fruiting raspberries.
- The first sweetcorn has been harvested (recipes to come once I get bored of eating it straight off the cob – might take a while).
- I’ve started wearing cardigans again.
- I’ve made my first preserve of the year.
No, I’m not turning old before my time (that happened loooong ago), but the signs of autumn approaching are in the air. Autumn is definitely preserve making season, and for that alone, I love it!
So I harvested 5 marrows on Monday – I knew there were a couple lurking under the mangle of spiky stems, but when I finally got around to pulling them out I spotted another, and then another, and … ‘oh no, not another one!’ I’m not sure exactly when an oversized courgette becomes a marrow, but when they’re almost half a meter long, they have both feet firmly in the marrow camp.
Determined not to immediately resign them to the compost heap, I did a little web search and stumbled across a recipe for marrow and ginger jam. I’m sure I must have come across this before but dismissed it as it doesn’t sound that appetising, but the picture next to the recipe sold it to me. A golden sunshine coloured nectar in a jar that looks too good to be true.
It’s not. What I now realise is that the marrow breaks down completely on cooking and because it doesn’t have a strong favour itself, it becomes just a base (or a sponge if you like) for whatever flavours you throw in there, but I think the stronger the better. So in this recipe, the ginger and the lemon steal the show and it becomes like a ginger and lemon marmalade, but without the need for a sack of lemons and a lot of juicing.
The first recipe I found was from All recipes (links below) which is a very simple method but uses only the juice from 1 lemon. I decided straight away that a bit of lemon zest in there would be nice and make it more like a marmalade. Then I found this second recipe from BBC Good Food that uses the zest as well, but a much larger quantity of ingredients, with more lemon and ginger per marrow.
I happened to have 3 lemons in the bottom of my veg drawer that needed using, and a 20g piece of fresh ginger, plus a bit extra in the freezer. But, I only 1kg of jam sugar in the cupboard. In the end, I decided to keep the ratio of 1kg marrow to 1kg sugar, as it’s sort of the golden rule that works best for me in jam making, but I threw in all of my lemon and ginger stock, what the hell, I love lemon and ginger.
In terms of method, I ended up using the All recipes version, as it’s so much quicker and easier, but you will need a food processor or liquidiser for this.
- 1kg marrow (I started out with one weighing about 2kg, but by the time you’ve de-seeded and peeled it, it will be a lot less)
- 1kg jam sugar (caster sugar will be fine if you use enough lemon)
- 20g ginger (this was the weight once peeled)
- 3 unwaxed lemons
Take your marrow and carefully slice it lengthways down the middle. Despite their size they are fairly easy to cut through. With a dessert spoon scoop out the seeds and woolly flesh down the middle. Take your time over this to ensure all of the seeds have been removed as you really don’t want these in your jam. Then flip the marrow halves over and peel their outsides. Chop into cubes and measure them out to around 1kg (a little under or over won’t hurt). Place into the largest pan you have and put to one side.
Peel the lemons and (if you want to) chop the peel down more finely depending on how you like it (thick cut/fine cut) then juice them. Put the lemon shells and any pips into a muslin bag if you have one (this isn’t crucial, skip it if you don’t). Peel and chop the ginger.
Add a couple of spoonfuls of lemon juice to the marrow and cook over a lowish heat until they begin to soften. Then tip them into a food processor or liquidiser (you might have to do this in batches) along with the rest of the lemon juice and ginger and blitz until smooth.
Then transfer back into the pan, add the zest and the sugar, stir, add the muslin bag, and heat gently until the sugar dissolves.
Meanwhile, wash and sterilise some jam jars (I filled 7 smallish ones, 4 or 5 regular sized would probably do). My normal method here is to wash them in hot soapy water, rinse, and then place them upright (along with the lids) into a baking tin, and place this into an oven preheated to 100ºc for 10 minutes. Also at this point, place a small plate into the freezer for the wrinkle test.
Once the sugar has dissolved in the mixture, bring the heat up as high as you can (be very careful here of molten liquid splattering out) and keep stirring it every so often. It can take up to 10 minutes at this stage, but I tend to use my senses rather than the clock. The mixture will start to thicken as you stir it, and the smell will become very ‘jam-like’, I know that sounds obvious, but the smell definitely changes from fruity to almost caramel like, which I guess is exactly what the sugar is doing.
When you think it’s getting close to done, take your plate from the freezer and put a small dollop of the jam on the plate. Give it a few seconds to cool, blow on it a bit (I do, but you probably don’t need to!) then push the glob with your finger. If it wrinkles up it’s ready. If it still resembles nothing but liquid put it back on the heat for a few more minutes and try again.
Once ready, take your jars from the oven (ensure they’re still hot) and fill them to around 10mm/half inch from the top. Screw the lids on tight and you’re done. Easy!
I’m now pondering whether a different flavour marrow jam could be possible. Marrow and chilli perhaps? Hmm, I am growing lots of those at home!