This week is all about getting your granny skills on, and making jams and preserves for a good cause with OzHarvest! OzHarvest is a food rescue organisation which I volunteer with in Sydney. The organisation has recently led the U.N.’s “Think.Eat.Save” food loss and waste reduction campaign in Australia; their core activity involves rescuing quality excess food from over 2000 commercial outlets (such as supermarkets, restaurants, farmers, events and markets), and delivering it free of charge to various charities throughout Australia.
Despite the vast wealth in our country, approximately 2 million people rely on food relief each year, and there is a long list of charities waiting to become recipients of the food rescued by OzHarvest. Not only does the food rescue help people in need, but the re-purposing of the food helps to reduce the vast quantity of waste which would otherwise end in landfill each year (OzHarvest rescues 56 tonnes of food per week across Australia).
In addition to helping people and the planet, one of the perks of being an OzHarvest volunteer is the fun, weird and wonderful opportunities related to food that we are able to participate in throughout the year. A few weeks ago, OzHarvest asked for volunteers to pick some fruit in the Southern Highlands at the Olsson’s family farm. The Olsson’s are best known for their mineral-rich sea salt, made and harvested in Australia. However, on this occasion, they were generously donating their fruit to OzHarvest which had been rain damaged (and thus slightly spotty) due to the recent storms. Still scarred from my mango picking experience several years ago and having to work on that day, I wasn’t available to pick the fruit.
However, when I saw a subsequent email pass by about making jam with Chef Trav from the rescued fruit, I quickly jumped at the opportunity. I had never made jam or other preserves before, so it was time to get those granny skills up and running…
We had apples, plums, pears, tomatoes and chillis at our disposal. We spent the morning peeling, coring, chopping, lemon squeezing (my wrists are still sore from squeezing about a litre of lemon juice…), stirring, whisking and baking. Ah, the smell of those delicious plums baking with the cardamom and star anise was divine! And the vibrantly coloured plum jam tastes as good as it looks.
On the menu was apple lemon curd, roasted plum jam with cardamom and star anise, pear jam and chilli tomato ketchup. I especially loved both the fragrant plum jam and the curd. I had always imagined lemon curd to be difficult to make, but it is quite simple once you have a thermometer. The apple makes a great addition, bringing a subtle sweetness to the tangy lemon.
The jam and preserves will be sold by OzHarvest at the Sydney Cellar Door in Hyde Park on the weekend of 27 February – 1 March. All profits will go towards funding their food rescue activities. So, if you are in Sydney, please do visit their stall at the Cellar Door and buy some! If you would like to instead make a donation to OzHarvest and give a little love (which is always welcome), you can do so here. For every A$1 received, this provides two meals to a person in need.
This recipe below is based on Chef Trav’s instructions to us for the curd, as inspired by the River Cottage Preserves No. 2 cookbook. We made vast quantities of this curd (four enormous commercial sized pots), however I’ve reduced the quantity below by about four. Feel free to adjust accordingly, depending on the quantity of fruit you have available. Lemon curd is great on crepes or pancakes, in tarts, on muffins or with yoghurt and fruit on muesli.
- 1kg of apples, peeled, cored and chopped (suspend the fruit in water with some juiced lemon halves while preparing to prevent it turning brown)
- 250mL of lemon juice, plus the juiced halves of 4 lemons
- 320g butter
- 1.125 kg sugar
- 14 egg yolks
- Jam jars with lids (recipe makes around 12 x 225 mL jars)
- Sterilise the jam jars and their lids.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the apples with the juiced lemon halves and 250mL water. Cook the apples until soft. Add the cooked apples to a blender and puree. Set aside.
- In a large heatproof bowl, mix the lemon juice, butter and sugar with an egg whisk. Gradually stir in the apple puree.
- Place the large heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water on low-medium heat. Keep whisking with the egg whisk until the mixture heats up to 60°C and is glossy. Gradually stir in the egg yolks and continue whisking. (Be careful with the temperature – if the mixture is too hot when the egg is added, it will split).
- Keep stirring the mixture over low-medium heat until it is thick and creamy and the mixture heats up to 80°C (due to the volume, this took us quite some time – 20 minutes or so). Once it reaches this temperature, remove from heat.
- Immediately pour the jam into the sterilised jam jars. Seal immediately with the sterilised lids. Turn the jam jars upside down and leave for 30 minutes, to push out any remaining air.