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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Ladies, a Plate: Jams and Preserves

Ladies a plate jams and preserves

Ladies, a Plate: Jams and Preserves is the newest title out by writer and independent art curator,  Alexa Johnston.  You may have heard of the ‘Ladies a Plate’ books before; Alexa has already published two books under similar names and branding.  There’s Ladies, a Plate: Traditional Home Baking which was followed by A Second Helping: More from Ladies, a Plate.  Both books were combined and rereleased last year in Ladies, a Plate: The Collection.  Alexa takes her classic baking recipes from friends, family, their mothers and grandmothers, and second-hand books, so everything is ‘just like grandma used to make’.  Ladies, a Plate: Jams and Preserves is the perfect new addition to her book family.  Here you will find recipes for making the perfect jams and preserves to accompany your baking (or to simply enjoy on a piece of toast!).

Ladies a plate jams and preserves jams and curds

The book includes over 100 recipes and they’re not all just for jams and preserves as the title suggests.  There’s chutneys, pickles, curds as well as fruit cordial and liqueurs.  I’m very intrigued by the ‘Apple Lemon Curd’ and I know Simon would love it if I made him some  ‘Beetroot Relish’.  Also, scattered throughout the book are interesting little stories and notes to accompany the recipes, along with Alexa’s ideas for serving the preserves.

ladies a plate jams and preserves chutney

One thing that I find amazing about Alexa’s books is that along with making and testing all the recipes, she also takes all the photographs used in the kitchen of her Auckland home. Which, from running this blog and putting together our baking basics eBook, I can really appreciate the amount of work she has put into the production!

Ladies a plate jams and preserves marmalade

Once you’ve decided on a recipe, have made it and poured it into jars, you’ll find a bunch of sticker labels included in the book to add the perfect finishing touch to your creation.  Brilliant.

We’ve been lucky enough to be able to share the Plum Jam recipe from Ladies, a Plate: Jams and Preserves with you, which is written below.  Plum Jam is simple to make; check out my attempt at it from a few years back in this recipe post.   Details about the book follow after the recipe. 

Pg 20 Plum Jam

Plum Jam
I think most people would consider Plum Jam as a standard, satisfactory jam and fairly unexciting, but you can nudge it into the distinguished and varied category by adding a few fresh or frozen berries. Particular favourites of mine are Plum and Blackcurrant, or Plum and Raspberry – and Plum and hazelnut is also a delightful and unusual jam. The method is the same for each, and since sour or slightly under ripe plums are high in both pectin and acid your jam will always set well. (Use ripe, sweet plums in a cake or tart and save the sour ones for jam making.)

900g dark-skinned plums
250ml water
900g sugar

Preparing the fruit:
Halve the plums by cutting around the natural crease and twisting the halves apart. Remove the plum pit with a knife or a pitting spoon. If the plums are very large cut each half in two.

Getting ready:
Wash jam jars and their lids in hot water, rinse them and put them in the oven set to 250°F/120°C for about 30 minutes to drain and dry. Put a couple of small saucers into the freezer – you’ll use them to test the jam for setting.

Making the Jam:
1. Put the plums into a preserving pan with the water and bring to  the boil, stirring. Cook for 10–15 minutes until reduced to a pulp.
2. Add the sugar, stir until the sugar dissolves and bring the jam to a fast boil, stirring often.  Once the surface is covered with small bubbles begin timing.
3. After 10 minutes test the jam for a set. to do this, remove the pan from the heat, put a small spoonful of jam onto one of your chilled saucers, wait about 30 seconds, then push a finger gently through it. If the surface wrinkles slightly in front of your finger the jam is ready. Turn off the heat, remove the hot jars from the oven and put them on a board.
4. If the top of the jam is frothy, drop in 1 tsp butter, which will, as it melts, make the froth disappear. After 5 minutes, ladle the jam into a heatproof jug and pour it into the jars using a wide-mouthed funnel.
5. Seal the jars immediately and try not to move them until the jam is cold and set. Label and store in a cool, dark place. Makes about 4 cups/1 litre jam.

Plum & Blackcurrant Jam:
This darkly delicious confection and the raspberry variant below both appear in a number of Aunt Daisy cookbooks from the 1940s and 1950s. Aunt Daisy’s books were compendia of recipes sent in by home cooks – listeners to her popular radio programmes. Follow the main recipe, replacing about 8 oz/225 g of the plums with fresh or frozen blackcurrants.  Start testing after 5 minutes.

Reproduced with permission from Ladies, A Plate : Jams & Preserves by Alexa Johnston. Published by Penguin Group (NZ), RRP $47.00. Copyright© text of the recipe and photographs Alexa Johnston, 2013


  1. We are right into the 'why buy it if you can make it' side of things at the moment and that book sounds like it has some lovely ideas in it :)

  2. I bought the book on the strength of your recommendation. Ladies A Plate is a kindred spirit to Baking Makes Things Better, I reckon - both wonderful resources for Kiwi bakers and makers. Thanks Ladies, a plate! a jar! and noms.