British Jam Controversy

Oh how I love the British! They have an odd, dry sense of humor. And they spell words funny, like color is “colour”. Perhaps I read Anne of Green Gables too many times (even though she’s Canadian not British). Perhaps it was too many Rosamund Pilcher books. I own the whole series, but The Shell Seekers and Coming Home are my favorites. Maybe it’s my love of Shakespeare and other poetry that I sometimes feel I don’t quite understand, but is lovely nevertheless. Also, I like using words like “lovely” and “nevertheless”. Maybe I can blame it on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It could be my recent affection for BBC series on Hulu or Downton Abbey (which, let’s be honest, is fantastic even though it’s like a grown-up evening soap opera).

vivid peachdigital refractometer picroyal ann cherries

As I’ve shared before, there’s a link to jam and science. In the US, the FDA requires jam to have at least 65% soluble solids (fruit and sugar) to be called a jam and fruit butter to have at least 43% soluble solids. I calculated the sugar content of all of my products using my handy-dandy digital refractometer, or “jam spectrometer” as I like to call it, (Nerd alert! When I was telling my sister Heather about this, I compared the name “jam spectrometer” to a title that the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz would call an invention on Phineas and Ferb.) .

Google alerts for jams recently sent me a gluttony of articles about the change to jam and sugar content standards in the UK. Apparently, there’s a recent jam controversy that has people up in arms! Parliament is about to vote on a law that would change the sugar content of jams from 60% to 50%. Anything above 50% could now be called jam rather than fruit spread. People are calling it the end of British breakfast as we know it!

One of my favorite articles was written by Quentin Letts (of course that’s his name) and you can read it here. There are so many fun quotes about jam and making jam, I hesitate to pick just one. Here are just some of my favorites…

  • The fruit is boiled and reduced  and skimmed and stoned and sealed in jars. It has been preserved, along with the  memories of the warm days when it matured under the summer skies.
  • change your clothes. When  making jam, you do not want to be wearing anything white or fancy. Don an apron,  too. Now seize hold of a large, wooden spoon and find yourself a big pan.  Jamming may begin.
  • …the jam is so hot, it resembles the swamps of Hades
  • Only when the lids have been screwed tight  can you indulge in the spoon-licking. It’s uncanny how this point of the process  always seems to attract members of the household who until this juncture have  declared themselves ‘too busy’ to help with the actual jam-making.
  • It seems sinful to let God’s bounty go to waste. If not turned into jam,  perhaps they (damson plums) can go in a crumble. Or damson gin. Used they must be. Used they  will be!

He gets me! He gets my gluttony and greedy heart when I’m at a farm or orchard and pick twice as much as I intended because the fruit is so amazing. He knows that jam really is lava hot! While making a batch of cranberry quince sauce the other day, the sauce was literally jumping from the pot onto my bare arm to sear my skin. It’s the price I pay for delicious, lovely, jammy heaven. Okay, perhaps that was over the top, but you definitely get the idea. Hopefully the British will find a compromise and won’t have to sacrifice taste. Heaven forbid they have as little sugar as  the American and European versions that they claim are “dull of colour, bland of taste and sloppy in  consistency.” I would feel slighted, if I didn’t know they were wrong. At least Aunt Becky’s jam is thick and syrupy and gloppy and stuffed with Oregon fruit and the feel of summer sunshine and love.


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