As you can probably tell I have recently acquired the latest Coles Magazine and am gradually working my way through the things that caught my eye. The picture above is one of them - Apple and blueberry spread. They don't even call it jam, although their little bit of promotional blurb refers to jam - "Love jam? Listen up! this homemade set-and-forget version is easy to make ...". It's in the slow cooker section, and unlike the other recipes I saw in this section this one did not have instructions on what to do if you didn't have one. Moreover the recipe is for apple and blueberry and blueberries, are Ok, but not hugely favourite. No - what struck me was that it was a jam made with apples and correct me if I'm wrong, but this is not a common thing. I'm pretty sure you can't buy apple jam in your local supermarket - no you can't - I just checked. Apple jelly and apple sauce - yes, but apple jam - no. And I can't remember apple jam from my youth either.
Why? I have now discovered that it is one of the fruits that is highest in pectin, which helps jam to set, so why wouldn't you make jam from it? Apples are also relatively cheap when in season, and many people have apple trees in their garden. So I set out to find the answer - and spoiler alert - I couldn't find one.
Which is not to say that there aren't plenty of recipes out there. Opinion seems to be divided as to whether you should add some extra kind of flavouring such as cinnamon or vanilla or ginger. Other more unusual suggestions were lavender, cardamom and star anise. There were also minor variances in the method - mostly to do with when to add the sugar. This varied from leaving the chopped apples to absorb the sugar and lemon juice overnight, cooking everything together from the start, and adding the sugar at the end. So take your pick, but I suspect that, as with most jams it's best to cook your fruit first, with the lemon juice - they all agreed on lemon juice - and some added zest too - then add the sugar and boil hard until set. I think that once you add the sugar it's harder for the fruit to soften. And apple juice was another common addition - added at the cooking the fruit stage. Obviously you can vary the kind of sugar you use, and you could add maple syrup or honey as well. Interestingly the colour of the jams varied but that is probably due to what kind of apples and/or sugar you use. And the general opinion there was anything goes. Indeed more than one kind of apple in your mix was a really good thing. Here are some examples: Toffee apple jam from a site called Larder Love. This one was a bit trickier as you began by making a caramel and there was brandy in this too. So it could be a bit special. The lady from Mon petit four added cinnamon to hers. Coles basic version looks gorgeous and French apple jam from The View from Great Island added cardamom.
They all raved about their jam although a few did say that you had to sort of avoid it tasting like apple pie. Well do you? What's wrong with apple pie? None of them seemed to think that it was unusual to make apple jam.
There are lots of apple mixed with other fruit and made into jam recipes - strawberries, blackberries (of course), rhubarb, figs, mango even. I suspect that the apples are included in these jams to add the pectin and to provide bulk rather than for their flavour.
So I am still a bit mystified and because I have never come across it in my life a bit reluctant to try really. Which is silly because I've got all those jars and it would be fun to try, even though a lot of these people seemed to think it wouldn't keep for long and that you had to keep it in the fridge. Surely not. It's jam isn't it? Sugar is a preservative. Sugar never goes off. Just make sure you've got enough of it - the sugar I mean, and that you've sterilised your jars, and sealed them whilst they are still hot so that you get a vacuum. Yes I might give it a go.