I’ve been out of my usual haunts and habits of the kitchen and writing recently. I needed a long break not thinking about either to clear my head both professionally and personally. I wanted to see what different views were out there and allow food and words to be neutral for a while.
I’ve had a wonderful and enlightening break but recently I could feel myself returning to both old friends. I could hear blog posts and recipes running through my head again and knew I wanted to write again. It’s like a physical things for me. I get the sound of what I want to say in my brain first and then I need to write it down. This is why I tend to write like I speak and I find writing so soothing and uplifting at the same time.
The other thing I find soothing and uplifting is making jam or preserves. It never fails to be a source of enjoyment for me to turn raw ingredients into something that you can store in a jar. There’s just enough effort and alchemy to make it interesting and it tends to look more impressive than it really is. It’s quite definitely my idea of a good night in.
And I’m probably the first person in history to utter the words ‘good night in’ about a marrow. The perpetual ugly duckling of the vegetable patch, most people see them as a courgette with ideas above its station, but I have quite the soft spot for them. Partly the association with much missed Deidre Barlow in Coronation Street and her famous stuffed marrow and partly because who doesn’t secretly love a comically oversized vegetable?
I couldn’t resist buying one in the Nour Cash and Carry recently therefore. Like most squash they last forever stored well and when I had an evening in need of some entertainment recently, my mind went straight to the marrow. I would make so retro even Mary Berry hasn’t revived it marrow and ginger jam and give everyone a little of taste of my tastes.
I may have had a bit of a break and come back refreshed but I still haven’t learned to read a bloody recipe so I ended up cobbling together one from Beryl Wood’s Let’s Preserve It book and this BBC Good Food recipe. I’d say if you can macerate the marrow overnight in the sugar it’s worth it as it took forever to soften cooking it from raw.
Marrow and Ginger Jam (make 6 x 190ml jars)
- 1.5 kilo marrow, peeled and cubed in 1cm chunks
- 1.5 kilo jam sugar with added pectin
- 3 lemons, zested and juiced
- 1 lemon juiced
- 100g stem ginger in syrup, finely chopped
Start by peeling and cubing your marrow. Place in a large bowl or saucepan and add 500g of the jam sugar and allow to macerate overnight. This helps draw the liquid out and soften the marrow to cook quicker.
Next day begin to cook the marrow in the pan you plan to make the jam in on a moderate heat, adding the juice of one lemon to give some liquid to soften it all down. You want it to become completely translucent and starting to collapse round the edges. Leave it for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally
Keeping an eye on the pan, zest and juice the other 3 lemons. You can reserve the denuded shells and the pips and wrap them in muslin and add to the pan to help set the jam further, but because you are using the added pectin sugar, I didn’t bother as it’s messier and I couldn’t be bothered to find any muslin.
Heat the oven to 160C and sterilise your freshly washed glass jars for 20 minutes at least while you allow the jam to cook. I always put them in a roasting tin to just lift one tray out instead of individual jars.
When the marrow is collapsing gently, add the juice and zest to it along with the remaining kilo of sugar. Allow the sugar to melt, stirring the pan well to stop it sticking or burning and bring the whole thing to the boil.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and using a thermometer if you have one get the jam to the 105C or 220F or if you are old school, cook it all about 10 minutes before putting a dollop of the jam on a plate you cooled in the freezer and seeing if it wrinkles when cooled and your finger dragged across it.
At this stage add the chopped stem ginger and the remaining syrup and stir in well. Take the pan off the heat and fill the sterilised jars, placing the lids on the jars immediately. Allow to cool and then tighten the lids completely.
The jam will keep for up to a year stored unopened and about a month in the fridge once opened. It is is extraordinarily good dolloped on top of some cream cheese on salted crackers. In fact I spent a glorious Coronation Street double bill doing just that recently despite the hidden fodmaps in the (apple based) pectin meaning I need to be measured here but if you can’t love yourself with a marrow, when can you?