I have never mastered jam. Worried that it isn’t going to set, I have always bubbled it for too long and ended up with a solid mess. It is first on our list of things to make at the Borough Kitchen, which has recently opened a branch in Chiswick and, along with sleekly desirable kitchen kit for you to drool over, has a great selection of cooking classes. We have gone for Preserving and Pickling.
Everything (for jam, read strawberries and sugar) is preweighed and laid out for us and it is good to understand the science, the amount of sugar you need to make it set – we are doing a 60/40 fruit/sugar ratio – and the heat you need to reach (105˚). A squeeze of lemon and a knob of butter to get rid of the scum and, hey presto, into the kilner jars. Next up is a sugar-free compote. Minus the sugar, you need a thickening agent. We use blueberries and grapes and add chia seeds which swell up a bit like tapioca. This one needs to be kept in the fridge but is delicious on my porridge. Then on to chutney. Grated carrot, apple, onions, sultanas and fresh turmeric and ginger. The preserving elements are sugar and vinegar. While this is bubbling away we move onto preparing a kimchi, a sort of Asian sauerkraut of brined cabbage. It is extraordinary to see how quickly rubbing the salt into the cabbage leaves makes them collapse into a soggy, watery mess. To this we add garlic, spring onions, radishes and mash it all down in a satisfying way. This is jarred up and has to be left to do its thing, top off (or it will explode) outside the fridge.
At the end of the two-hour class we have four jars each and a sense of understanding both of how preserving works and how you can experiment with different tastes and textures. Homemade Christmas presents sorted!
Borough Kitchen, 186 Chiswick High Road, W4 1PP 020 3538 9010 boroughkitchen.com
We will be highlighting all things culinary in a monthly Foodie News bulletin, compiled by the brilliant Neris Johnson, which will be featured in a&u weekly.