Not all berries that are edible are necessarily to be found in the veggie garden. One such berry is the bright pink Lilly Pilly berry. This one grows on trees and hedges. And one great thing to do with Lilly Pilly berries is making Lilly Pilly Jam.
When my computer hard drive died a few weeks ago a number of my ideas for blog subjects evaporated into cyberspace. Not even the IT gurus could breathe life back into it. It was dead and with it went months and months of photos.
Those close to me know that I am forever taking photos of plants, flowers, bugs and birds and I can amass a sizable number of shots in a short time. Well, you know how the saying about life and lemons goes. And since I’ve already published an article about making lemonade, I thought I’d still bring you something sweet and share a recipe on making Lilly Pilly Jam.
The official name of this member of the myrtle family is Syzygium paniculatum. Other names the berries are known by include magenta cherry, lilly pilly and Eugenia berries. Although the Eugenia genus has undergone some changes over the years and these trees have been recategorised under Syzygium, the name Eugenia still sticks.
I used to eat the berries from the trees I walked past on my way to school. The best way I can describe the taste would be to say they taste like light and airy granny smith apples. They have a slightly sourish taste and the flesh is not as dense as an apple.
Making the jam
The hedge just outside my kitchen is usually full of berries during summer so I thought I’d try my hand at making Lilly Pilly jam. I was quite pleased with the result and may make this an annual addition to my preserves and jams.
The berries are quite small, only growing about one to two centimetres in length. In order to make the jam-making process worthwhile, one would need to pick 1 kg of berries at least. Each berry contains a pip the size of a pea. Each pip needs to be removed. I found this task a little time consuming wishing that I had a cherry stoner just the right size for these berries. Fortunately I have since acquired one so prepping the next batch will be much quicker and easier.
Personally I prefer a jam that is not too sweet. The berries have a naturally sourish taste which, according to my taste buds, balanced well with the sugar level.
Eugenia berries don’t have high levels of pectin. Without pectin the jam would be more like a fruity syrup. Pectin helps the jam to set and, well, become more jammy. Citrus fruit naturally contain higher levels of pectin so I soak lemon pips in a little water overnight and add this water to the berry pieces before boiling them. In addition, the boiled apple water used in the recipe also helps in increasing the levels of pectin in the jam.
Lilly Pilly Jam
- 550 g Lilly Pilly berries pips removed
- 385 g White sugar
- 1-2 Lemons
- 2 Apples
- Juice the lemons the evening before and soak the lemon pips in a little water overnight. This step is to extract the pectin from the pips.
- Wash the picked berries well to rinse off any dust and unwanted little critters. Remove the pip from each of the berries. A task probably best done listening to your favourite music.
- Weigh the pitted berries. Calculate the amount of sugar needed by working out 70% of the berry weight. (eg 1 kg berries equals 700 g sugar) Add the sugar to the berries. Give them a stir to mix and leave them to stand for a while.
- Slice the apples thinly, pips and all, and place them in a small pot. Cover with about a centimetre of water. Simmer until the water has reduced by half and the mixture is a light golden colour. This step is also to increase the pectin levels in the jam. Strain the juice and add it to the berries and sugar which in the mean time should have become a juicy mixture.
- Place the sugary berry mixture in a heavy based pot. Add the lemon juice and the lemon pectin water (sans pips). Bring the mixture to boil. Turn the heat down to let it simmer.
- Prepare the sterilized jars. I used two 352 ml jars for my batch of berries.
- The fruit becomes translucent and the jam begins to thicken after roughly 12 – 15 minutes. To test if it is ready, drip some jam onto a chilled plate. If the drop is thick and jammy it is ready. If it is still runny, simmer the mixture a little longer and test again.
- Once ready, remove from the heat and carefully ladle the jam into the hot, sterilized jars. Using a jam funnel is a good idea if you have one. Seal the jars while hot and leave to cool.
Enjoying the jam
Did you know that this jam tastes great over ice cream? Of course enjoying it in the traditional way on toast is just as good too. In fact, I think that is just what I am going to do – make myself some coffee and toast with Lilly Pilly jam and go and make a backup of my photos.
Until next time, happy jam making.
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