I’m not quite sure when cranberries became part of a British Christmas. I’m sure they didn’t really feature when I was younger, but the moment when they popped up eludes me. All I know is that these days, they are available almost everywhere – in sauce, frozen and fresh.
Obviously they make a great sauce with the Christmas bird (if that is your thing), but my problem is that I tend to buy several packets of them based on the fact that they are bright red and look like something that belongs with the celebrations. All well and good, but apart from sauce, you quite quickly run out of options. Cranberries are so tart that you can’t eat them fresh, and even in baked goods they can be lip-smackingly sour (yes, there is a reason that lots of sugar is added to dried cranberries!).
So, if you’ve succumbed to the temptation to buy cranberries, didn’t use them with dinner, and are now looking at them wondering what the heck to do with them, I have a suggestion. You can easily cook them up with that other festive favourite, clementines, and make a bright red, rather tart jam. It’s a little like marmalade (sweet, but with some tang) what can go on bread or scones, or alternatively with strong cheddar. Even if your cranberries are past their best and have been bruised, you can still throw them into the jam pot and transform them into something wonderful. The berries also have enough pectin to ensure that this jam sets easily, and you can be done with everything in less than half an hour if you’re organised. Problem solved!
To make cranberry jam:
• 600g cranberries
• 200ml water
• 500g white sugar
• 3 clementines, zest and juice only
1. Start by sterilising some jam jars(*), and put a plate into the freezer – you’ll need this to test when the jam is set.
2. Put the cranberries and water into a pan. Bring to the boil, then simmer for five minutes. Use a masher to make sure all the berries have burst.
3. Add the sugar, clementine juice and clementine zest. Stir well, bring to the boil, the simmer until the jam sets (10-15 minutes)(**).
4. Once the jam is ready, ladle into the prepared jars, seal, label and hide it somewhere.
(*) To sterilise jam jars: wash with hot, soapy water, then rinse well. Place upside-down in a cold oven, and heat to 90°C for 15 minutes. Leave in the oven to cool down while you are making the jam . To sterilise the lids, wash with hot, soapy water, then rinse well, place in a saucepan with boiling water for 5 minutes.
(**) To test for the setting point, put a spoonful of the mixture on the icy-cold saucer. Let it cool, then tilt the saucer – if the jam wrinkles, the setting point has been reached.
Worth making? A nice, if somewhat tart, jam. Good if you like cranberries, and it does make a nice change from very sweet jams at breakfast. The clementine also adds greater depth of flavour and some freshness to the taste.