It’s been an interesting week. Work on a new project, about which I shall share – in time; the first real taste of winter which is the season of mists and glorious sunsets (notwithstanding that from around The Sandbag House, they have to be viewed through telephone and power lines).
What set this week apart, though, was not the public holiday, spectacular sunsets or the new project, but that people came knocking on our door looking for two of the products that I make and sell at the market. Our village has transitional inhabitants: swallows who spend summers with us and then flee to warmer climes as the cold weather approaches. It was one such who appeared, very apologetically, at the door: “Iss Fiona hier?” Mr Swiss Swallow asked, startling The Husband who was sitting on the sofa having a quiet cuppa.
“Yes, she’s in the office…”
“Do you think she hass any morr of zat spicy plum jam? We lurve it; our friends lurve it!”
I rouse myself from the day job and confirm that, indeed, there is more. “How many do you haff? Ve orr leaving tomorrow and cannot kom to ze market. So sorry to bozzer.”
To cut a long story short, Mr Swiss Swallow went off with five small jars (for ease of packing, you understand) and a larger one, and three jars of chilli jam. His parting shot:
“Vil you haff mor ven ve orr back?”
Suffice it to say that Boer le Roux appeared shortly after the market on Saturday, as The Husband was helping Farmer Judy with her bakkie* that had decided not to start. Boer confirmed that yes, there will be plums in plum season; the plum trees were not damaged in the previous week’s fire. Two Fridays ago, the wind howled down the mountains and through the valley: the first winter storm resulted in sparks from overhead power lines. There were valley-wide power outages and fire causing millions of Rands’ damage on Boer le Roux’s farm: an olive grove laden with olives ready for picking, a fig orchard, a vineyard, all gone, along with miles of irrigation pipes and equipment, as well as fencing. Not to mention the damage to workers’ cottages and associated infrastructure. Fortunately no homes were razed nor lives lost, but it will take the farm years to recover; perhaps not in Boer le Roux’s lifetime. His grandson’s inheritance is in ashes.
Fire notwithstanding, plums there shall be, so when Mr Swiss Swallow and South African-born Mrs Swiss Swallow return next summer, there will be spicy plum jam.
And chilli jam there shall also be.
I’ve been making this jam for years. It’s a favourite of The Husband’s and of two particular of our Cape Town pals. Also of English Lass and follower of this blog, who, on a previous visit had returned home with a jar in her suitcase. When from a Facebook post, she heard about the first batch of the season, she demanded, …er, no…, kindly requested, that I set a jar aside for collection on her next visit to the village.
How could I refuse?
Said jar of chilli jam was duly exchanged for pinhead oatmeal, not available in South Africa. That will be another story….
Like a few things I make, my chilli jam is based on a recipe that I’ve had for years, courtesy of Jenny Morris’s newsletter, printed out, filed and consequently spared the devastation of a crashed hard drive.
As you can see, I’ve ramped up (and ramped up again) the quantities (with help from The Husband). I’ve used our own chillies and those Farmer Judy grows in her organic farm garden around the corner. I’ve bought chillies to make the jam. I’ve used chillies with a range of hues; fresh and semi dried. The recipe still works.
What I’ve adapted/learned
- I use the quantity of chillies that is available as the basis of working out the other quantities:
sugar: the same quantity as the chillies and onions + 1/8 (by weight)
water: the original recipe uses half the quantity of sugar, i.e. 125ml (see also 4 below)
- The original recipe calls for lemon juice; when I can, I substitute commercial juice with fresh lemon juice and the zest of lemons to increase, at least a bit, the pectin content. However, the capsaicinoids present in chillies, particularly in the seeds and the pith (the veins/placental material to which the seeds are attached) probably interfere with the jam’s setting and which pectin encourages. So I do use commercial lemon juice, but when I can, and because it’s preferable, I use fresh lemons.
- The “heat” varies depending on the type of chilli that one uses. Some are relatively mild while other are really hot. The Husband prefers the jam made with what he refers to as the “Hot F*ckers” and each year, trawls the local nursery for seedlings of said chillies. He doesn’t mind showering upside down.
- Not perfected yet – as I mentioned, the mixture becomes syrupy but not jammy, so I have been gradually reducing the amount of water, which is a bit hit and miss – you’ll need to see what works for you.
The jam doesn’t really thicken much and when I pot it, I pack the pots with as much chilli and onion as I can, so I end up having a lot of the liquid left. Not that the people who get the “leftovers” are unhappy….
Following Saturday’s market and a visit, earlier in the week from Farmer Judy, herself, I have run out of chilli jam. Her brother had requested as much of “that” chilli jam as she could lay her hands on – as her gift to him for a not insignificant birthday.
So off Farmer Judy went, to Cape Town with six little pots of chilli jam.
I shall have to make more and continue the perfecting the recipe. I’ll update this post when that happens….
I’ve written this partly to acknowledge the support I’ve received for these two products, partly because I’m a bit gobsmacked at the demand and lastly, because without even tasting it, I’m getting requests for this chilli jam – from people not even in South Africa, let alone McGregor. I can’t export it – that’s a mission on which I don’t plan embarking. As for licencing, suggested, tongue in cheek by boarding school and varsity pal from years ago, well, I’d rather share the recipe.
Oh, and here’s another gorgeous cloudscape.
*pickup, utility vehicle, ute
© Fiona’s Favourites 2016