Review of EU Directive on Jams, Jellies and Marmalades


Stop Brussels and save our home-made jam

Eat your heart out, Nigella. Look to your laurels, Jamie. I am about to reveal exclusively to readers of this newspaper the secret of making impeccable damson jam.

After two seasons of experiment, in which I have burned saucepans, smashed Moulinexes and splattered so much jam over the kitchen that it resembled a scene from Goodfellas, I have cracked the great damson stone problem. I now present my findings to the Royal Society of Telegraph Jam-Makers with the sense of exhaustion and pride that Rutherford must have felt after splitting the atom.

I believe the recipe to be idiot-proof. The result is sensational – sweet and yet tart, but not wince-makingly tart, and once I have explained it, you will want immediately to join the great jam-making community. You will want to rise up and protect the interests of British jam-makers – and indeed small businesses of all kinds – against the insanity of some EU regulations; and when you hear what I mean, your blood will boil hotter than the jam itself.

When I say “you”, of course, I mean you too, male readers. Before you drift away to the sports pages, let us be clear that, in 2007, jam-making is an entirely unisex and gender-neutral activity. If women can go to work and suffer the curse of ambition, then we men are entitled to the restful consolations of jam-making.

That is why I now urge everyone – men, women, children – to go out now into the autumnal hedgerows and copses, and there you will still find fruit, even in the middle of October. You will find millions of unharvested blackberries, left on the brambles because the British are now too spoilt to pick them. Here and there, if you are really lucky, you will find the damson, the fruit of the gods, a tiny plum with a denim-blue bloom.

I reckon that with nimble fingers and wristwork you can collect a thousand damsons in an hour, and soon your carrier bags will be full. I wouldn’t bother to wash them. Just whip the stalks off and bung them in the biggest series of pans you can find. You will recall the jam-making controversy of Tolstoy, where Kitty boils up the fruit on its own, and Agafea Mihailovna uses water as well.

Yes? Well, I am with Agafea. Put in some water (not much), and then boil away. You can read while you stir, and after a while something incredible happens. The flesh of the raw damson is greeny-yellow, but when it reaches boiling point, an alchemy takes place, and as if from nowhere a rich red bursts through, and as a heavenly smell comes off the pots, the stuff goes redder and redder until it’s like a vat of arterial gore.

Just as you are congratulating yourself on this miracle, you see the problem. It’s the pips, the stones. They are beginning to float to the surface, and you soon realise there is no simple way of sorting them out. You can’t hope to spoon them all off.

Mrs Beeton says you should take them out first, and she must have been mad. Have you tried to stone a damson? It’s like doing heart surgery with an axe. I once met a woman who said she had a damson stone extractor at home, and when I asked her to draw it on a napkin she became all coy, rather like those two scientists called Fleischman and Pons, when they were asked to explain exactly how they had achieved cold fusion on the kitchen table top.

And yet you must get the stones out, because you can’t hope to offer your public jam if it’s going to crack their teeth or choke them to death. But how? How to remove a thousand yellow pebbles from the bubbling red gunk? One false move and you risk pouring it all over your foot, and as the fiery gouts shoot across the room you realise that damson jam was probably second only to boiling pitch as a means of defending mediaeval castles.

That is why I am now happy to reveal my breakthrough. You need another big pot, and a colander. Yup, just ladle the mulch into the colander, bit by bit, and mash it all around with the ladle – and presto! Jam goes through hole. Stones stay in colander. Yippee.

After that it is a doddle. Whack the stone-less gloop back on the stove, turn up the heat, shove in a great mound of sugar so that it protrudes through the lava like a white volcano, and then boil and boil until it starts to coagulate. By the time you have finished you will feel a quite intense and ridiculous sense of satisfaction. You will have row on row of coffee pots and gherkin jars full of fantastic jam, and suddenly you feel your ambition soaring. Why just give it away? Why not sell it? And at present there is nothing to stop you.

You can sell it to raise money for the church roof. You can sell it at the side of the road, and if all else fails I can think of worse careers. And yet there is a cloud on the horizon, at present no bigger than a man’s hand, and it is the forthcoming review of the EU’s 2001 directive on jams, jellies, marmalades and sweetened chestnut purees.

We all know how these reviews become consultations, and how consultations become regulations; and there is a chance that someone in Brussels may decide to bring home-made jam within the scope of the regulations – and then what? We jam-makers would be obliged to state, on oath, the exact sugar content. We might be obliged to warn that jam is a potential cause of obesity, and heaven knows what else.

It is absurd that this innocent industry should have this threat lowering over it, and it is all because of the qualified majority voting – the veto-abolishing system that will be greatly extended by the new reform treaty.

That is why I say again: referenda est constitutio. Let us have a referendum on the constitution, and show Brussels once and for all that we don’t need this kind of absurd law-making.

If Gordon Brown will not honour his promises, let us demand a new government, and a new political agenda that puts the conserve into Conservatism, and offers a guarantee of home-made jam today, jam tomorrow, and jam for the foreseeable future.

18 thoughts on “Review of EU Directive on Jams, Jellies and Marmalades”

  1. Signing the E.U. constitution is clearly NuLabour’s revenge on the W.I. for having the gall to boo T.B.

  2. Ah, Boris. And so our relationship comes full circle.

    What are the immediate and long-term effects of the E.U. Directive on Jams, Jellies and Marmalades upon the Canadian/UK trade in Saskatoonberry jam? My relatives are standing by their mason jars in anticipation.

  3. An excellent recipe and another timely warning about EU absurdity – damn those interfering gnomes.

    Just one recommended modification – substitute a little port for the water, and use a little more to wash the jam through the colander. Takes any jam to another dimension !

  4. I can see it now.

    Boris is in the kitchen, bedecked in an apron bearing the words, “Fit for Grilling” or some such thing. He stirs with one hand and scribbles the next column with the other. At some point he struggles to find the right word and runs his fingers through blonde but jam-streaked locks. The children, nearby making labels for Daddy’s jammy concoctions, laugh.

    Suddenly the sound of a car pulling into the drive. The family gasps! Oh no! She’s early! Frantically, the children scramble to grab their pens and stickers as Boris realizes that he now has far more to worry about now than the mere EU regulations. Any second Marina will walk in and see the state of the kitchen, her best double boiler and the children (half covered in rejected stickers and nearly as jammy as Boris’ hair). The door handle turns and the family hold their breath.

    Fade to black.

  5. Good point that as soon as you have civil servants reviewing something they will usually have a consultation with “special interest groups” (anything else would be undemocratic) & when that is done it is impossible to say “this is something where our interference would be damaging” without looking like idiots so, with the inevitablity of water flowing downhill, more regulations follow.

    This does not mean that the people in Brussles, or Westminster, are evil merely unnecessary.

  6. Boris, with this nonsense, you inadvertetly highlight the farce that is the smoking ban, and the potential for catastrophe.

    It is the 1990 Food Safety Act, introduced under the Thatcher government, that extends the definition of ‘supply’ in food safety matters to the proverbial little old lady selling her jam for charity.

    My mother has been baking cakes and selling them for charity for years. Until recently our two late cats would often be standing on the surface watching her. None of the cakes she ‘supplied’ werela labelled in accordance with the Food Labelling Regulations 1996.

    None of the proverbial little old ladies jam is labelled in accordance with The Jam and Similar Products (England) Regulations 2003 – the regulations that implement “…the EU’s 2001 directive on jams, jellies, marmalades and sweetened chestnut purees…” and that use the FSA1990 extended definition of ‘supply’ do indeed make a potential criminal out of the proverbial old lady and her charity jam today.

    The thing is that local authorities do not enforce foods labelling regulation upon people who bake, make jam and sell it for charity.

    Now the Heath Act 2006, and the regulations designating ‘substantially enclosed public places’ potentially criminalise me whenever I stelter in an alleyway during the winter months smoking a cigarito.

    Currently council bureaucrats are not being silly enough to hand out on the spot fines to smokers sheltering from the elements. I doubt they would dare do it on a Saturday night when everyone has had a few drinks either. The difference is that no one has it in for the jam makers like they do the smokers.

    The smoking ban is not EU legislation either, what will the Tories do to scrap it?

  7. Ah Mr Johnson, what a curiously deluded metrosexual you are. In my household, Mrs Lobster makes the jam, whilst I get on with the important business of pickling onions. Mrs Lobster is never troubled by an EU directive because she rarely picks up a paper. Similarily I am never troubled by Brussels – onions, glass jars and vinegar are freely available – and I have no intention of finding out what the law is. Bliss ensues. If only you could stop trying to scare everyone you might find you have more time for the fun things in life.

  8. I just checked the ingredients on a premium brand of ‘Oxford Marmalade’ and it read like a phone book. How come it’s legal to sell factory made chemical slop with 20+ ingedients in 1/2 point type, but anyone making ‘chuck it in the bucket’ traditional jam, with nothing in it which isn’t readily recognisable as food, can’t sell it? I know what I wan’t to eat.

    Does anyone have the faintest idea what glucose/fructose syrup is? It seems to be in everything these days.

  9. I think this ‘new man’ thing is being taken a bit too seriously by some gentlemen. Jam-making??!! Whatever next. Women unite – we can’t have men actually enjoying themselves doing this sort of thing. They’ll be expecting us to enjoy it next.

    And yes, I quite agree that the smoking ban is a far more serious affair than all this fuss and bother about jams and such-like. If there’s one thing I can’t forgive some European countries is their vehemence to ban smoking in public places way before England did. And without EU interference. What kind of example is that!!? I still can’t believe that the Italians, of all people, agreed to it. It shook my faith in human nature.

    Many EU regulations are crap. BUT (and this is a big BUT coming up):

    In Paris a few years ago, I bought some of the most delicious grapes I’ve ever tasted. I found them at a greengrocers – you know the kind, with fruits and vegetables openly displayed in crates or boxes. There were quite a few of these greengrocers along the street near my hotel – in fact, quite a few everywhere in Paris.

    How many greengrocers do you see in London any more, selling fruits and vegetables of all shapes and sizes and colours? They’ve all been pushed out by our supermarkets, while rents and rates are so expensive that independent smaller businesses cannot possibly compete. Parisians, on the other hand, care far too much about their food to let anyone spoil the act.

    It’s not a terrible thing for some people to care less about food than others, but I don’t think it’s just EU regulations that are limiting our choices of what we can eat or not.

  10. [Ed: moderated] …EU then there is no hope for the next fifty years.

    Those of us who believe in the freedom of the individual, that which is not illegal is permissable will have to wait fifty years for the whole Stalinist mess to collapse.

  11. Somebody’s got a fine line on Gordon’s (‘I think the people are stupid enough to fall for it’) spin on the Scotsman site.

    86. Charles1234 / 4:24pm 20 Oct 2007

    Brown’s red lines revealed:

    He would oppose the treaty if it…

    1. Allowed giant alien moon frogs to come to earth and eat the EU’s asparagus mountain

    2. Made Swahili the official language of the EU

    3. Banned the use of loud voices by British tourists talking to waiters in Marbella

    4. Straightened British-grown bananas

    5. Made him lower fuel tax

    On all five he successfully saw of these attacks on our sovereignty by the Albanian tea lady who came round after the plenary.

    Another great result from a great Prime Minister.

    He will go down as one of the greatest socialists who ever picked his nose.

  12. If the EU are Stalinists, what does that make the cretins who banned smoking?

    I blame it on peacetime. Just because there’s no war, it doesn’t mean that people stop being warlike.

    And so the dissatisfaction and the boredom grow, and the Health Fascists and the EU Nazguls twiddle their claws and peer restlessly into the murky gloom with their red-rimmed eyes, craning their icy necks to see if they can spot SOMEONE enjoying themselves.

    The one mercy of the Iraq war was that the papers unceremoniously dumped their health reports, so preoccupied were they with the bloody goings-on, and everyone suddenly became riveted to their TV screens. That over, back to health scares – drone, drone, drone, blah, blah, blah, zzzzzz – and the usual junk.

    I think EU officials and Health Fascists should have to spend a compulsory year either on the dole (over here and not in some warm country) or in a war-zone or trying to make sense of this list. That might set their priorities right.

  13. Did anyone catch the great patriot McBroon banging out the National Anthem before the rugby? Made me proud, he did!

  14. Did anyone catch the great patriot McBroon banging out the National Anthem before the rugby? Made me proud, he did!

    Gosh, yes. He sang with such enthusiastic gusto, didn’t he?

  15. It reminded me for all the world of when the old Soviet Union used to roll out the near dead Brezhnev, his jowls would shudder, and another pronouncement would be relayed to the masses. How has it come to this?

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