Yesterday the children at the Penparcau Out of School Club had a special visitor. The chef and cookery writer Elisabeth Luard came to the club to demonstrate how to make blackberry jam. The first thing we all had to do was collect more blackberries. Armed with collecting bowls we went to the edges of the school playing area, where hundreds of blackberries were ripening. The children really enjoyed themselves seeing how many blackberries they could collect - it turned into quite a competitive sport.
Back indoors Elisabeth explained the process of making the jam. Each child had a jar for their jam and this was filled with blackberries. Then an equal amount of sugar was added to the jar so the berries were covered. The children were then encouraged to shake their jars to mix the berries and sugar. The contents were then put into two saucepans and set to boil. While the jam was bubbling away, Elisabeth took the children out to the field to show them wild plants that could be used in cooking - like dandelion leaves, wild sorrel etc. She explained that these could be used in salads or in omelettes.
The jam continuously stirred to ensure that it didn't burn - a knob of butter was added to each pan to get rid of the foam. The mixture was tested every few minutes to see if it was ready to set - this was done by dribbling a few drops onto a cold china plate and also by checking the back of a spoon. Once the jam was ready it was put into the children's jam jars and when it had cooled, a disk of greased proof paper placed onto the jam before the lid was put back on.
The children really enjoyed the whole process and some couldn't wait to taste their jam. Another session has been arrange for the children to do some more cooking with Elisabeth next month.