Who’s who: Islington’s preserve professional Thane Prince – from BBC show The Big Allotment Challenge – releases recipe book
PUBLISHED: 14:36 26 August 2014
TV jam judge and long-time Islington resident Thane Prince knows a thing or about preserves.
How to Make the Perfect Jar of Plum Jam
1kg red plums
900g white granulated sugar
Yield approx. 1.2kg – keeps 9–12 months
Measuring jug and scales * Some glass jars with lids,
washed and dried * Baking tray * 2–3 small china or
glass plates or saucers * Colander * 1 clean tea-towel
Chopping board and sharp knife * Large heavybottomed,
non-reactive preserving pan with a lid *
Wooden spoon * Timer * Bowl of hot water and a
slotted spoon * Jam funnel if available, or ladle *
1 . Place some clean jam jars and their lids on
a baking tray and then into the oven preheated
to 100C/200F/Gas 2 for 20 minutes. Put two to
three small plates or saucers in the freezer to chill.
2 . Wash the plums well in a colander, and leave
to drain on a clean, ironed tea-towel.
3 . Cut the plums into halves or quarters, depending on
size. As you do this remove the stones and discard
4 . Place the prepared fruit in a preserving
pan and add the water.
5 . Place the pan over a moderate heat and cover with the lid. Bring up
to a simmer and, stirring from time to time, cook
the fruit until it has softened, about 10 minutes.
6 . Now turn the heat down to very low, remove
the lid from the pan and add the sugar. Using a
wooden spoon, stir the mixture until the sugar has
completely dissolved. Make sure you cannot see
any undissolved crystals of sugar on the sides of
the pan and the back of the spoon. The jam should
not feel gritty when stirred.
7 . Turn up the heat
and bring the mixture to the boil. Cook the jam at
a full rolling boil, one that can’t be stirred down
with the spoon, for 5 minutes, stirring quite often
to stop the fruit catching on the bottom of the pan.
8 . Turn off the heat and make your first test for
a set. Take a cold plate or saucer from the freezer
and drop a spoonful of jam on to it. Leave for about
1 minute then push the side of the mixture gently
with the tip of your finger and look at the surface.
If it wrinkles, the jam is ready to pot.
9 . If the jam is still runny, turn the heat back on and boil for a
further 2 minutes before testing again. Always turn
off the heat while testing for a set. Repeat until the
jam tests positive for a set.
1 0 . Once the jam has reached setting point, turn off the heat. Skim off
any scum using a slotted spoon, rinsing it in a bowl
of hot water between skims.
1 1 . Leave the jam to cool for 5 minutes. Take the baking tray of jars from
the oven at the same time.
1 2 Pot the jam into the hot jars. I use a jam funnel to help with this,
but a ladle is fine. Top with the lids.
1 3 . When the jars are cold, label them, and check the lids are
firmly screwed on. Store in a cool, dark place.
Ever since watching her mother create chutneys during the post war years, she’s honed her craft to perfection and her expert knowledge was called upon to mark the efforts of conserve hopefuls on BBC 2 Show The Big Allotment Challenge in the spring.
Since then, the fanatic Arsenal fan has been busy pondering potential celebratory FA cup winning curds, and now she’s brought out a recipe book so anyone can try making their own marmalade.
“I had the idea while I was judging on the show,” she said. “I realised a lot of people don’t know where to start. It’s a very old fashioned skill, although it seems to be regaining popularity.
“A lot people on the show were great growers but couldn’t get started in the kitchen, so I thought there might be another way round.
“Each chapter starts with a perfect recipe for jam or chutney. If you went through the book you would end up ten varieties, which is frankly as many as anyone needs.
“But if you do want to go further, there are ten within each chapter.”
Ms Prince says it’s a myth specialist equipment is needed to start a spread. “Go to Chapel Market, get some bits and everything else will be in your kitchen already,” she claims – and she uses casserole dishes, jugs and so on.
But some things in the preserve process are sacred, and can’t be tinkered with.
“Making you own jam is great, because you get control. But don’t you touch the sugar.
“Jam is exact science. We’re not taking about the sloppy continental stuff with a checked lid.
“There’s nothing wrong with that, but British jam is set and you can’t mess about with the proportions.
“It has to be the right balance of pectin, acid and sugar. That’s why so many people fail because they start with strawberry, and its the hardest one to make because it doesn’t contain any pectin or acid.
“Why not add some red currants?”
And as a preserve professional, why does Ms Prince think the humble jam is becoming more in vogue?
“I am slightly older,” she said. “Part of the post war generation who remembers my mother preserving stuff.
“People had to keep things in the pantry and in north Norfolk the night’s were long and dark.
“These days we don’t need to, we live in a time of plenty but that doesn’t mean we don’t get gluts.
“And people like to be in control of their food and grow their own - just look at the waiting list for allotments.”
As an Islington resident, in various addresses, since 1978 Ms Prince is a keen Gooner. And following the club’s FA cup triumph in May, could be about to marry two of her favourite things.
“I am a massive fan,” she said. “I’ve often worn the polyester shirt.
“I did wonder about making a jam for the final – strawberry would have been the perfect red colour. Although I’d have probably had to add some French liqueur.
“Or better yet, a chutney to represent the team, with Spanish paprika and served with a German sausage.”