Jam’s History

What’s more fascinating than finding something extraordinary out about something you thought was very ordinary?

Jam’s history — although it’s far from monolithic — transports me to kitchens elsewhere fast. I had no idea the hard-to-find quince was once an everyday fruit until I came across a slew of quince recipes in a book I was given rich in nineteenth-century South Australian regional cookery history.

Regional or historical recipe books often have unusual jam recipes and are worth browsing. Or go online and dig around for old recipes in Google Books and you’ll find gems like this, from (according to the scan Google Books showed me) the 1808 The art of cookery made easy and refined… by John Mollard.

RASPBERRY JAM To every pound weight of ripe picked raspberries add fourteen ounces of sifted sugar and half a gill of currant juice put them into a preserving pan set them over a brisk fire and when it boils skim it well and let it simmer till it becomes of A good consistence.

NB The raspberries may be mashed with a spoon previous to adding the sugar or rubbed through a wicker sieve.

It’s a pretty awesomely simple recipe. The proportions of sugar to fruit are the same recommended today; the blackcurrant juice — however it was extracted is unclear — may well add natural acidity, just as lemon juice commonly added to recipes today does; the “good consistence” isn’t anything you wouldn’t hope for in a batch of jam you’re making in your stovetop today.

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