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Who’s who: Islington’s preserve professional Thane Prince – from BBC show The Big Allotment Challenge – releases recipe book

14:36 26 August 2014

Thane Prince Pic: Keiko Oikawa

Thane Prince Pic: Keiko Oikawa

Archant

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

Ingredients:

1kg red plums

250ml water

900g white granulated sugar

Yield approx. 1.2kg – keeps 9–12 months

Equipment:

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 *

Labels

Method:

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

them.

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.”

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