Holy smokes, it’s December – where did 2015 go? Don’t answer that. I say this every fucking year. It feels like I’ve done nothing noteworthy for the last few months. Nothing, you know, really important. Didn’t save the world or make waves. Didn’t update my blog much or publish articles. I got scared of facing my weekly newsletter and let it die. I spent way too much time on social media.
I did, however, make a fair bit of jam. Which has got to count for something.
Jam-making is one of those pastimes which speaks to my inner Smaug. There is something deeply satisfying about lining up jars of jam like jewels in the pantry, never mind that I don’t even eat that much jam. But the process of jamming is meditative, and once I’m in the swing of a particular fruit jam, so automatic that I stop consulting recipes and just stir up batch after batch, sometimes well past midnight.
I have idle daydreams about selling jam at a farmers market stall or something next autumn, but persimmon jam is also a wonderful thing to gift if you have a glut of these fruits (which we did). Even if you don’t, I highly recommend making some if you love jam – this one is especially delicious with smears of blue cheese, all posh-like, atop a sliced baguette. The variations, listed at the bottom of this post, are also tasty – my favourite is the lemon-lime version.
After consulting a bunch of recipes on the internet, I settled on these as proportions that I liked, were easy to remember and turned out a delicious jam. Persimmons and lemons are already pectin-rich, so good jam texture is pretty much guaranteed with this recipe. There’s nothing especially difficult or technical involved in making this jam, but this is not one of those things you can leave puttering on the stove. It is a lot of labour for like, 3 tiny jars of jam. You’re going to be hovering over the pot stirring and making sure it doesn’t burn. But it’s okay. Everyone who tries this jam will love you. Just keep telling yourself: you will be loved.
Basic Small-Batch Persimmon Jam
225g white sugar
Pulp your persimmons. This is the bit you want people helping with or you’ll be here for ages. Depending on the variety and their ripeness, this method may differ for you – if on the crisp side and seedless, peel and cube. If seeded, I prefer to slice in half and scoop out the pulp with a spoon, picking out the seeds into a separate bowl for composting. You’ll want enough to yield 1kg of pulp – 1.2-1.5kg of persimmons should do it.
Optional at this point: if you have a stick blender, puree your fruit. I don’t have a blender, so I use a potato ricer and mash the fruits as best as I can. You can skip this step if you like your jam chunky.
Zest your citrus fruits. There is no better tool than a Microplane zester for this – I adore my zester. Then slice in half, and juice them. Add the zest and juice to the pulp.
Measure out white caster sugar and add it to the pulp, and stir to mix.
If it ain’t already in the pot, transfer the whole mixture to your largest pot. You want a wide surface area for the excess water to evaporate, and tall sides so that it doesn’t spatter all over the countertop. Most jams should cook down as fast as possible so that they retain that bright, fresh-fruit flavour and won’t taste overcooked.
Turn the heat up to high and bring it to the boil. Stir for a bit, and when scum starts rising to the surface, skim it off. Skim off as much scum as you can, lowering the heat when it starts to bubble too much. This process will take anywhere from 15 – 30 minutes. (See all the foam? That needs to go!)
Once there is no more scum rising to the surface, take a wooden spoon or spatula of some sort, and stir, scraping to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. You won’t need to stir like a whirlwind, but just help it move around a little, and evaporate a little faster. At this stage, I like to turn off the heat and take a potato ricer to the mixture again to smoothen it out, but this is totally optional.
Let it cook down, stirring, until it has reduced by at least half, and is a thick, jammy consistency. Do the plate test if you like, or use a thermometer to make sure it reaches 220C, but I never bother. Persimmons are generally rich enough in pectin that the jam will hold its shape decently.
Ladle into sterilised glass jars – fill them right up! – pop the lids on and turn them upside down, and let them cool down. Many people will tell you to process them in a canning bath or whatever. There’s no need for that. I’ve never done it, and the jam has always been just peachy.
Yields: 3 x 190ml jars, plus an extra saucer for breakfast
Persimmon black pepper jam: same as the basic persimmon jam, but with 1 tbsp coarsely ground black pepper.
Bit strange, but delicious with blue cheese, or mixed generously with persimmon puree and used to simmer chicken thighs.
Persimmon lemon-lime jam: 1kg pulp + 225g white sugar + 3 lemons (juice and zest) + 2 limes (juice and zest)
My favourite variation – tangy and floral. Would be gorgeous with a plain buttery shortbread or pound cake of some kind.
Persimmon lemon jam: 1.3kg pulp + 300g white sugar + 4 lemons (juice and zest) + 1 lime (juice and zest)
Lemon-sharp, and quite assertively so.
Persimmon yuzu jam: 1kg pulp + 225g-300g white sugar + 5 golf-ball sized yuzu (juice and zest) + 1 lemon (juice and zest)
Intensely yuzu-fragrant. Tangy, but not assertively so. A slight marmalade-like bitterness here.
Persimmon yuzu jam: as above, with 1tsp – 1tbsp of freshly grated ginger according to preference.
A hint of warm ginger for autumn teatimes – very nice.
- For ease of preparation, you might want to use non-astringent persimmons for the jam, since you won’t have to wait until they’re totally soft to preserve them. There’s nothing stopping you from adding some ripe astringent persimmon pulp into your jam, though.
- I’ve never counted the number of persimmons needed for a batch of jam, since they vary in size and shape, but I’d estimate somewhere between 25 – 35 persimmons on the small size end up in these jars. Mine have seeds, though.
- Every time I make this jam I throw in whatever citrus I fancy. Some work better than others: lemon, lime and yuzu all work fabulously. Sudachi is too tiny and delicate and gets lost, even when you chuck six of them in. Kabosu might work, but in much larger quantities than I’d used. I imagine that some orange zest and juice in addition to the lemon would work very well too.
- Grated ginger is a good addition if you like it. Some honey also never hurt this jam, though I can’t say it’ll work for other recipes.
- You shouldn’t have any problems getting your persimmon jam to set – just cook it down enough – but if you encounter any, read these pointers.