So according to my sources the talk went well. Okay, so my sources are mostly my Mum and N, but I'm fine with that. People laughed (in the right places) people asked questions, and it seems I might even have inspired a few to make their own jam. Oh, and everyone raved about the jam and preserve based-cakes which was great. (Well, kind of, I was slightly hoping I'd have more to bring home, rather than the odd curd tart case and cookie crumb!)
Speaking of which, for those of who you might be reading and want to know more about preserving, I thought I would recommend a few things. I'm sorry that they will be UK specific in most cases, but that's just what I know, and I only want to recommend things I use and trust. This book has all the basics, and some very good adaptable recipes. You don't need to get bogged down in all the technical stuff, but it explains it all. It doesn't have big glossy photos like modern books, but I've found it an excellent tool whilst learning to preserve. The only thing I would say though, is to ignore some of the things she says about setting point. Trust your instincts on it. Oh, and if it doesn't set the first time, whack it back in the pan and try again. What she says about how if you don't get the set right the first time meaning all is lost is rubbish. Trust me, I've re-boiled many a time in the pursuit of the perfect set!
Another great option is this book. This time with pictures, and a wonderful guide to what fruits are available when (well, when in the UK). I have made many many recipes from this book and only once was I disappointed (my redcurrant jelly was brick, not jelly as I found the estimate for set just wrong). It's good because it has a good range of preserves, and so not that many recipes for each, but techniques for jam, jelly, curd, chutney, bottled fruits and fruit drinks.
I now have a ridiculous collection of preserving books. It's outnumbered by the baking books, but only just! Each has it's own charm, and each has favourite recipes in, but the above two are what I started with, and helped a lot getting the basics down before I moved into the realms of experimentation (which has been interesting, and featured many a preserve that hasn't made it onto the blog for obvious reasons!)
As for equipment, I'd stress that you really don't need to spend lots of money. For small batches all you really need is a heavy-based large saucepan, a wooden spoon and a cold plate (to use for testing set). You can recycle old jars as long as you wash and sterilise both the jar and the lid. However, if you do decide it's something you'd like to pursue more, then the easiest and best place for UK jam equipment in my opinion is Lakeland. You can order online, they are very affordable, and have the best customer service I have ever come across. I would say however, that I can't recommend the sugar thermometer they stock. I had one and after two washes the numbers had washed off. Instead, try and get a brass one which has the numbers etched into it. Harder to clean, but will last you forever. BUT, you don't have to have a themometer, and I no longer use one when preserving, I do it all by instinct, and the more you make the more you will too, I'm sure.
I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who came and listened to my tales of jam making, blogging and packaging jam to send across the world. I really hope that I managed to express just how much fun preserving is, and how great the people are that I've met through the jammin' jelly exchange, and all the other random jam connections I have made.
If nothing else I managed to inspire myself, and have had recipes running around my head for days! It's clearly time to dust of the preserving pan and get going again. Who's with me?...