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Kick out the jams

May 20, 2012 · 28 comments

So, I think I’ve left sufficient time between blog posts for Hold the Beef to become retro. Ten months is about all it takes these days, yeah? I realised too late that I should have had a Rugs-a-Million style closing down sale or a Farnesy-esque final tour before I disappeared off into the ether, but it wasn’t entirely a conscious decision and as such my one chance at ripping the unsuspecting public of their hard-earned dollars seems to have slipped me by. Still, je ne regrette rien. Well, almost none. Pop on some montage tunes and I’ll fill you in on some highlights and lowlights of the past few months – I suggest Sigur Ros if you want to be uplifted by my highs or if you find yourself feeling a touch too genetically superior today,  The Verve to wallow in my lows, TISM if you thought you heard a semi-trailer, or some Rocky training for the montage purists.

The overwhelming theme of 2012 has involved a seemingly unending semester of Car Crash Aftermath 101. I’m beginning to wish there were Frequent Medical Points you could collect and cash in – I’m sure I should have accrued enough for a free nosejob by now, though if other points programs are anything to go by I’ve probably only earned $20 off my next colonoscopy. I’ll spare you the crash/medical/woe details, but I now have newfound respect for those poor crash test dummies (the actual dummies, not the band), and am glad the option never arose to become a stunt-person as I’d apparently be rubbish at it. If you add Fletch and I together you could get a fully functioning human, but the age of Frankenhooker is sadly not yet here and so we carry on as best we can.

My best friend’s baby also decided that Aquarians are so awesome he would come say hello to the world 10 weeks early (eeek) but is now doing really well (hurrah) and is actually super cute, preventing me from having to lie poorly or compliment him on his toes. I put all my training to good use and ran my first half marathon last August and loved it (woo), but now due the  Great Crash of 2011 probably won’t be able to run again until the end of the year (boo). Oh, and Fletch and I moved in together last year, my Dad recently bought a shiny red tractor and I might have turned 30 a couple of months ago.

As big a crowd pleaser as the shiny red tractor is, I guess the biggest high-five (with my good arm) moment of recent times must, however, be that beautiful day two weeks ago when I handed in my PhD thesis, and finally received that long-awaited red PhinisheD mug.

Apparently if you print this photo and stick it on your fridge, the eyes follow your every move.

The thesis examination process can take 4-5 months so I’m not quite Doctor Conor yet, but it’s out of my hands now and I’m enjoying a few weeks of doing not-very-much, while I catch up on life and figure out what I want to be when I grow up. While this has been happening, our two citrus trees that we weren’t quite sure about have decided they’d like to be orange and mandarin trees when they grow up, and have produced masses of fruit. There was, of course, only one thing to be done with this turn of events. It was time for a jam-boree.

The wheelbarrow took fright at my approach.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised making jam is like writing a thesis…

  • you’re encouraged to stir the pot,
  • adequate preparation is critical,
  • the process tends to take longer than you expect,
  • most people would rather it’s you doing it than them,
  • you are very likely to get burned at some stage,
  • chances are you’re going to need some assistance (particularly if you are currently unable to lift heavy pots. Or light pots. Or your arm),
  • you will want to share the fruits of your hard work with everyone, and
  • there will be much toasting involved once it’s all over.

Like many things in many PhD research endeavours, my first ever marmalade attempt (Day #1) soon developed into a comedy of errors. Firstly, we seem to have a mule of an orange tree that doesn’t produce seeds. While an orange tree shooting blanks is a handy attribute for a lazy orange eater, it’s not so great for a pectin-hungry marmalade fiend. Not to worry though, that’s what Jamsetta was made for! Luckily Fletch was heading to visit the doctor so he grabbed me some on the way home. Having left the fruit and peel to soak overnight, I then got started on the actual process, only to realise we didn’t have enough sugar in the house. Luckily Fletch was relaxing in front of his computer, nowhere near the shops. After he did a mercy sugar run, the rest of the process seemed to be going well until the donkey half of the oranges reared their stubborn heads and the marmalade refused to set. I’m not sure how many frozen saucers I went through while adding more Jamsetta (twice), boiling it down some more and, finally, declared close enough was good enough.

I then realised it would probably have been useful to own some sort of funneling device, like a funnel, for instance, to get the marmalade into the jars. Making one out of an old water bottle was a great idea, until we realised the diameter of the water bottle was no larger than that of the jars. Another was made out of a larger plastic bottle, which Fletch then carefully sterilised with boiling water which warped and shrunk the plastic. Still, a shrinky-dinked funnel was better than none and I began carefully filling the jars, sealing with the lids and inverting them. Which resulted in boiling hot marmalade splurting out through the lid seals. Damn you, Red Dot! You buy my childhood trust with your affordable unlicensed unplugged Nirvana and Pearl Jam cassettes, and then you go and stiff me with unsealable jam jars! By this stage I declared I was never going to have children lest they also had children and I become a granny who couldn’t make jam, and I just screwed the lids on as tightly as I could with my non-buggered left hand and hoped the cooling marmalade would suck the little poppy vacuum lids in anyway.

Jam 1 Conor 0

Later that evening I heard a distinctive POP! and laughed in Red Dot’s general direction. Haha! Take that, you Snuggie loving purveyors of E numbers!

The next morning, we discovered that only one of the jars had sealed.

Before admitting total failure, however, Fletch and I tested the marmalade with a muffin and spoon, respectively, and realised that it was worth persisting through another round of ridiculousness to get the jars properly sealed. It was bloody good marmalade, and somehow had reached the perfect consistency. The marmalade attempt (Day #2) began with another trip to the shops to buy those clear cellophane covers (forgetting of course that a cheap funnel may also have been a handy purchase) before re-boiling the marmalade, re-sterilising the jars and re-filling them all again. The cellophane covers actually worked a treat. I grew increasingly more suspicious as the jars continued to seal perfectly, but it seemed my jam initiation was finally over and I could take comfort in the fact that I may be allowed to join the CWA after all. Once I learn how to make scones.

Have you seen the muffin man? Not exactly a difficult feat after so many years of carb abuse, bless him.

Spiced Orange Marmalade

Recipe derived from this one on

Makes: roughly 2.7 litres


  • About 1.3kg oranges, washed
  • 1 lemon, washed
  • 2.5L cold water
  • 2kg white sugar
  • 75 g Jamsetta (see the recipe for the use of seed/pith pectin instead of Jamsetta)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • ¼ cup Grand Marnier


  1. Peel the oranges and the lemon and thinly slice the rind (getting as little pith as possible without going crazy from it). Discard orange pith and dice the flesh. Place rind, flesh and 2.5 L water in a glass/ceramic bowl. Cover and set aside in a cool place for 6 hours or overnight to infuse.
  2. Transfer mixture to a large heavy-based saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Boil, stirring, for 10 minutes.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the sugar, Jamsetta, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, vanilla and Grand Marnier, and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium and gently boil, stirring occasionally and using a metal spoon to remove scum that rises to the surface, for 1 hour or until mixture thickens and is at setting point. (To test if mixture is at setting point, place a saucer in the freezer for 5 minutes to chill. Spoon a little marmalade onto saucer. Return to freezer for 2 minutes or until marmalade is cold. Touch to see if it is set and gel-like. If not, continue cooking, testing every 5 minutes. (NOTE: I ORIGINALLY USED 25G JAMSETTA AND BOILED FOR AN HOUR, WHICH WASN’T ENOUGH TO GET IT TO SETTING POINT. BY THE END OF THE PROCESS I HAD ADDED A TOTAL OF 75G JAMSETTA AND THINK I PROBABLY BOILED IT FOR A COUPLE OF HOURS).
  4. Remove from heat. Discard cinnamon, star anise and cloves. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool. Ladle into warm sterilised jars, seal and turn upside down for 2 minutes. Turn upright and set aside until cooled. If your jars are absolutely rubbish, use Kleerview cellophane covers instead. Label, date and store for up to 2 months in a cupboard, and 2 months in the fridge once opened.
  5. Drink the rest of the bottle of Grand Marnier and clean the jam from everything it has somehow covered in your kitchen.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Gcroft May 21, 2012 at 2:52 am

Welcome back Conor and thanks for sharing the recipe.


Conor May 22, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Thank you! The best part of this recipe is that your house smells like spices all day long. And every morning if you happen to live with someone who likes to now start their day with some jammy goodness :)


Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite May 21, 2012 at 4:44 am

Conor – I am SO sorry that the Car Crash has had such a lasting impact (no pun intended) on your life. Glad that you are getting it back together and, as someone who has quit not one but TWO PhDs, I am SO incredibly proud of you. Sending you hugs and hoping you’ll blog a little more frequently now the pressure is off – I miss you!!!
Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite´s last blog post ..Baked honey cheesecake with a chocolate-hazelnut crust


Conor May 22, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Thank you thank you! You should totally be due one of those honorary doctorates by now, surely, for contribution to the culinary arts! What a superstar you have become, you should be bloody proud of yourself. And yep, I hope to blog more frequently now but I think it’s going to take a bit of getting used to it all again. I’m feeling VERY rusty. I haven’t lost my eating skills though, at least.


Chompchomp May 21, 2012 at 7:54 am

I only just came on the blogger scene when you left and was sad to see no further updates after reading a lot of your older stuff. As a sufferer of gluten intolerance and fructose malabsorbtion I was chuffed to read some of your articles targetted for us and our ailments. Welcome back!
Chompchomp´s last blog post ..Toast, East Perth


Conor May 23, 2012 at 10:12 am

Thank you! I look forward to some reciprocal reading :)
I’ve actually overhauled my diet a little more, which has resulted in totally curing my IBS and hypoglycaemia, so watch this space for more recipes!


panamahat May 21, 2012 at 8:42 am

That marmalade does indeed look awesome. I have been playing around with marmalade for a couple of years now and here are some alternatives I like to use: tangor (cross between orange and tangerine) for a very sharp tang; blood orange for a more mellow approach; blood orange and saffron for extra poshness. This year I will be taking the plunge with sevilles and a bit of whiskey…


Conor May 23, 2012 at 10:20 am

Yes, my dear, I bow down to your royal jamness! I love a good bit of tang, as you know, so I think my next mission is to make good use of all the millions of lemons I now find myself with after the two trees have taken off again. Lemon curd, anyone?

Reply May 21, 2012 at 9:58 am

Well done on finishing your PhD and making awesome jam Conor!´s last blog post ..Mystery Pantry Challenge at Farewell Abandoned House Party


Conor May 30, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Thank you thank you!


Megan May 21, 2012 at 11:29 am

You’ve been missed.
So sad about the car crash… mmmmmmm once there was this girl who.. got into an accident and couldn’t make her jam mmmmmmmm
My jam making abilities are always hit and miss, i have read so much about jarring/canning/trying to make sugar free with natural pectins and preservatives always makes for disaster and hotter than the sun jam on skin (i will just dip my finger in this pot of boiling lava like jam to test if its setting seems totally okay!)… but yours looks devine! well done
And a big hurray on PhD’ing it up!


Conor May 30, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Thanks lovely! Anti-thanks for getting that song in my head, though. I guess we’re kinda even now. I guess if I gave you some of my jam, I’d be winning. It’s tempting.


Caroline May 21, 2012 at 11:34 am

Well I can confirm that the marmalade was indeed worth all the effort (easy to say from the point of view of the eater rather than the jam-er, I know). I had the marmalade in question for breakfast this morning and it is by far my favorite toast accompaniment. The beautiful spicy goodness balances the sweetness perfectly and despite my normal distaste for orange peel in cooking, your peel was candied to perfection an I could eat it all day – and lets face it, I probably will.


Conor May 30, 2012 at 8:15 pm

This makes me very happy. I think it is my duty to make you jam in this, your time of no-sleep. And…… I have made more. Will deliver soon!


Hannah May 21, 2012 at 12:37 pm

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!!! May it not be another ten months, precious flower who has been much missed in the garden bed of my heart.

Alas, you have invoked my nose-wrinkling via your rampant use of the devil’s fruit here, but I will forgive you because you are magnificent Doctor-to-be of 30-year-old and medical-system-supporting wonderment.

Also, I feel your pain (metaphorically and physically). I was going to my doctor’s twice a week for several months at the culmination of my toe woes. May silver nitrate also fix you up gooood soon.

Hannah´s last blog post ..Mother’s Day Lunch at Lark Hill Winery


Conor May 30, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Oh Hannah, I am only sorry that I did not serve it with a side slab of marzipan for your benefit. Do not fear, I shan’t be posting any horrid o-word things your way. Oh dear, the thought of posting things your way makes me realise it was your birthday this weekend and I totally didn’t acknowledge it! EEP! Um, happy birthday to you? HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!!


Agnes May 21, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Congrats on the phd! But more importantly: on the awesome jam. Perhaps you can be a jam maker when you grow up?

(Welcome back!!)
Agnes´s last blog post ..The week in brief: 14 May – 20 May


Conor May 30, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Thank you! I know, I’ve been thinking that perhaps I could be the most over-qualified jam maker that ever burnt their fingers off! My need to pay the rent is kinda swaying me in other directions, though my Mum assures me a lotto win is just around the corner.


Katherine May 21, 2012 at 7:25 pm

CONNOR. Welcome back to the blogging world lovely. We have missed you…
Katherine´s last blog post ..Xinjiang Lamb Kebabs for Australia Day


Conor May 30, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Thank you! I’ve missed you too, it feels like I’ve been away on a big holiday..well, a big working holiday where I didn’t get to relax with cocktails. Uh, this metaphor isn’t quite working, but hopefully you know what I mean :)


Bryt May 21, 2012 at 7:58 pm

And boom! she’s back :D We knew you couldn’t stay away forever ;)


Conor May 30, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Boom boom, baby! Got to get this ball rolling again, it’s kinda lacking in momentum. Heave, ho!


Arwen from Hoglet K May 22, 2012 at 6:49 am

Congratulations on finishing your thesis! I hope the marmalade turns out to have arm-curing properties.


Conor May 30, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Thanks Arwen, I’m holding out similar hope for the jam! So far no good, but we’ll see…


Mother May 24, 2012 at 5:55 pm

She’s back!


Conor May 30, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Yippee! Will give you some jam this weekend if you’re lucky :)


foodie cravings June 17, 2012 at 9:49 am

Yay welcome back! I have been miss reading your entertaining posts – well done on completing your studies and hope your recovery from the crash is quick. hehe my lemon and orange tree has just come back to life too – I have thought about making marmalade so thanks for the recipe ;)


Adrian (Food Rehab) July 24, 2012 at 11:40 am

Haven’t spoken in ages old friend! Hope you’ve been well. Go the rainbow cake!
Adrian (Food Rehab)´s last blog post ..Cookbook Newsflash: Landing in Best Sellers, New Stockists + WIN 1 of 4 copies!


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