Passionate makers of jam

Kyneton Farmers Market stallholder Deb from Curly Dog Jam with her dogs, Lola and Jimmy.

Recipes for jam always look simple and the first-time jam maker is often blessed with beginner’s luck.

As you get cooking you realise that skill and experience is what really counts when trying to get jam to set.

When making your own is not an option, it’s great to know that handmade, small-batch jam and preserves can always be found at local farmers markets.

Kyneton Farmers Market has two stallholders who are passionate makers of jam, chutney, sauces and preserves.

Both grew up with mothers who were exceptional cooks. They learnt first hand how to handle catering for a crowd of girl guides and what was required to make three meals a day plus morning and afternoon tea in shearing season.

Deb from Curly Dog Jam had more help from her dad. Brenda was an honest mum who said “I’m just too impatient to teach you to cook!”

A self-taught cook, Deb’s main motivation to make jam was just because she couldn’t stand wasting food. One hundred per cent of the proceeds her first batches of jam were all donated to her daughter’s pony club.

Making friends with a new neighbour helped her take steps to develop a more serious, home-based business. Deb lives on a quarter-acre block that has 20 fruit trees including seville and bergamot oranges planted in the backyard.

Many people and customers just leave seasonal fruit on her doorstep, happy to be given some jam in exchange. Her very reliable source of cumquats each year is delivered by a man who Deb says “will do anything for a jar of pickled garlic!”

Deb’s collection of books on jam and preserves is 100+ now. Learning from passionate cooks and sharing recipes with customers is part of her process. Her favourite new book is Recipe for a Kinder Life, by legendary local chef Annie Smithers.

In her book, Annie shares insights from her jam-making experience. Annie observes that once jam gets to a temperature of 104 degrees it wont set anymore. Deb agrees, and her tip to help jam set is to add the juice of a large lemon (one lemon per 2kg of fruit). Pectin can be added too. Deb thinks that runny jam still tastes delicious.

Curly Dog jams are made in small batches of about 20 jars. Her advice is not to use more than 3kgs of fruit. Deb loves seville orange season, which starts in July. Marmalade fans won’t want to miss tastings at Curly Dog Jam this Saturday.

Rosemary from Bendigo Fine Foods grew up on a sheep farm in South Australia.

Surviving life on the land and some big health challenges, Rosemary’s entrepreneurial talent enabled her to turn what she loved to do into important off-farm income.

One of her first, home-based businesses was to make jam gift packs for wineries in the Coonawarra wine region. Building her own patchwork business began when she opened a shop called A Stitch in Time. A second sister shop opened in Adelaide with the help of her cousin.

A second marriage and moving to Bendigo resulted in another new business. Falling back on her passion for homemade preserves and cakes resulted in the creation of Bendigo Fine Foods, a very successful market-based business.

Rosemary grew up with the country tradition of entering cakes and jams in the local agricultural show.

Loving a challenge, she has entered cakes and preserves in the Royal Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney shows and her local Agricultural show – Bendigo.

Her products have won first prizes including ‘Best over All’ and ‘Highly Commended’ in every show. With just too many to mention, visit the stall this Saturday and taste some of these show winners in person!

Kyneton Farmers Market is on from 8.30am – 1pm this Saturday June 11 at St Paul’s Park in Piper Street.