From August to early November, autumn-olive trees around the city are loaded with red currant-like berries, easily identifiable by their silver-stippled skins. In our current issue, Marie Viljoen shares tips for where to find the trees, when to taste the berries and how to turn the sweetly tart fruit into luscious autumn-olive jam. Read her story here and then try out the recipe below.
From author Marie Viljoen
“Before you pick your berries, taste them” says Viljoen. “They vary from tree to tree.” She also notes to let the jam fully cool in the saucepan before you jar it. Due to the fruit’s high levels of lycopene, which is not water-soluble, sometimes the juice will separate from the pulp in the set jam. It doesn’t affect flavor, says Viljoen, but you can ensure lovelier jars by letting the jam completely cool to room temperature in the saucepan and stirring it frequently to keep everything mixed.
3 pounds ripe autumn-olives, rinsed and dried
1 cup water
2 pounds sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
In a large saucepan crush the berries very lightly with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring, until berries are just soft enough to press in batches through a strainer or food mill to remove the seeds.
Return the pulp to a clean saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Keep at a simmer and skim off any foam that forms at the sides and in the middle. Add the lemon juice. When the jam reaches gel point* turn off the heat. When fully cooled, pour into sterilized glass jars.
*Gel point test: Dip a large metal spoon sideways onto the jam. When two drops of liquid meet towards the middle, setting point has been reached.