Hooks for Cooks™

Five years ago this month, I was off on a very special adventure. darina-allens-nectarine-jam

As a tenth wedding anniversary gift, my husband had arranged to send me to County Cork, Ireland, for a one week hands on cooking class at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. It was a fabulous trip that I eventually wrote about for The New York Times Travel Section.

I adored that experience and especially enjoyed learning to make jams while I was there. I often made jams prior to that class, but Darina’s method was so simple and straightforward.

Her raspberry jam method resulted in a loose jam with a fresh flavor. When I was initially instructed on how to cook jam a la Darina, I was baffled. Her method was contrary to everything I had ever learned–cook it a long time, put it in sterilized jars, and then cook again submerged in a water bath.

In a nutshell, Darina instructed us to heat the sugar first, cook the jam for just a few minutes until set, ladle into hot jars just to within 1/4 or 1/2 inch of the top, wipe the rim, and screw on a hot sterilized lid. Then let the jars cool undisturbed and wait for the lids to self seal themselves. Confused, I told my instructor Pam that the method just didn’t seem correct and there were no instructions for boiling the filled jars in water…Pam confidently told me that the sugar would act a natural preservative. This method is apparently a European approach that is far different from the one I had learned here in the States.

While at Ballymaloe that week, I made a couple jars of that extraordinary raspberry jam and even managed to cart some home to Christopher and the kids. My classmates that week made Orange Whiskey Marmalade and Nectarine Sweet Geranium Jam, using sweet geranium from Darina’s herb gardens. We sampled everyone’s creations collectively. I was hooked on the method and the sweet geraniums.

darinas-jam1At home, I purchased a copy of Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cooking School Cookbook (US Edition) and have been making Darina’s jams every since. (Yesterday was declared my “Nectarine and Sweet Geranium Jam Day 2009!”)

I’ve even gotten my English mother in law hooked on the Nectarine and Sweet Geranium Jam. Last time she was in Seattle, I sent her home to Missouri with her own Sweet Geranium plant purchased from Metropolitan Market. She is gearing up to make her own jars in a few weeks.

Check out the book and read Darina’s “Jams and Preserves” chapter carefully. You will find yourself buying far more fruit than you need, just so you can crank out her soft luscious easy jams. With any luck, you might even find yourself booking a flight and heading to County Cork, Ireland!

One Response to “Darina Allen’s Nectarine and Sweet Geranium Jam”

  1. Hooks for Cooks™ » Blog Archive » Preserving–More Ways than One

    [...] last weekend I decided to multitask the solo operation. Yes, I made some gorgeous jars of Darina Allen’s Nectarine and Sweet Geranium Jam, but I also grabbed some half sheet pans and decided to put my freezer to work as [...]

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