With their own category in the Royal Adelaide Show cookery competition, Adelaide’s blokes put their best oven mitts forward and get competitive. Jam junkie Tim Whetstone shares his award-winning recipes for you to try at home.
We’re long past the stereotype of blokes chucking on a novelty apron to cook the yearly prawns on the barbie. These days, gents have their cake and bake it, too. Competition is rising. The Royal Adelaide Show added a men’s-only chocolate cake competition in 2011 and men are donning aprons for all sorts of cooking. When the flour settled on the Show cook-off, we caught up with two repeat competitors to talk about about their passion for all things sweet and what it’s like to buck the trend.
Tim Whetstone – Jam Junkie
Suit-clad and parliament-bound by day, MP for Chaffey Tim Whetstone is an avid cook in his spare time. Friends, family and co-workers are well aware of the politician’s secret skill for crafting perfectly gooey, caramelised jams and sauces. He makes a mean quandong pie, too, but his jams are renowned. Jars are rationed out to those lucky enough to make the cut, with everyone hankering for the next small batch to bubble down and be bottled. The secret? Fresh produce.
“It’s about putting flavour into a jar. If you use the best you can get your hands on, I think that’s the best way,” he says.
Tim was inspired by his upbringing picking fruit and baking with his mother and grandmother. “My grandmother was always a great jams, sauce and chutney maker. I grew citrus and wine grapes for 25 years and generations of my family have always been on the land, so it might have been something that was always with me.”
His citrus and wine-grape properties were sold before entering politics, but Tim is still an advocate for Riverland produce. “I’m surrounded by some of the best fresh produce in the world and so I thought my jam would make a fantastic calling card.”
Tim Whetstone’s own jams and preserves are sought after among the Riverland community. Tim drops them off as he campaigns. “I don’t know how it happened. It just eventuated. I’d go out campaigning for the election and pick figs, or fresh anything…it’s just a quirky calling card; it creates good banter and a bit of competition at local shows.”
He uses local produce from farms in the Riverland, most belonging to lifelong friends. “I pick all the fruit. That’s all part of the whole story, and they’re good mates.” It’s the secret to his jam’s success. “I like to promote my home patch. Having fruit straight off the tree and into the jam gives it real flavour.”
Entering his jams into the Royal Adelaide Show wasn’t just about coming home with first prize, it was a way to continue a family legacy, and an excuse to catch up with old mates. “In my new role as MP, I spend my time between the Riverland, Mallee and Adelaide. I can’t find as much time to fish with my mates anymore but when I find time, I love going to pick their fruit instead.”
Tim has quite an affiliation with the Show. His grandparents were heavily involved in the event with their champion Hereford cows. He also competes in country fairs.
His eye is on the main prize. “I’ve had runner up a number of times, silvers and bronze medals for my jams, but the gold medal is the elusive medal for me at the Royal Adelaide Show.”
Tim’s Fig and Ginger Jam
Makes 12 medium jars
2kg Black Genoa Figs freshly picked
7 cups (1.75kg) Premium white sugar
200g glacé ginger
Juice of 1 Valencia orange, seeds removed
Juice of 1 eureka lemon, seeds removed
12 medium jam jars (for storage)
Top and tail freshly picked figs and cut into quarters before putting them into a large jam pot. Set aside.
In the oven, warm the sugar to 60°C.
On low heat, gently bring the fruit to a simmer then add sugar. Increase the temperature to a gentle boil. When boiling, add the glacé ginger and reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring continuously to prevent any sticking to the base of the pot. Cook for two hours.
Add the orange and lemon juice.
Meanwhile, thoroughly clean jars, place into the oven and heat to 60°C (with lids) to sterilise.
Remove the foam from the top of the jam with a ladle, then fill jars with jam and screw on lids.
Allow to cool in open space before refrigerating or storing in a cool, dry place away from direct light.
*Figs are in season in late summer/autumm in South Australia. You can pick your own at the Glen Ewin Estate. If you cannot find fresh figs, Tim suggests purchasing good quality semi-dried figs at a local deli/dry-goods store. Freeze any leftover fresh figs to cook jam later in the year.
Dried Apricot Jam
Makes 6 to 8 jars
1kg dried apricots (large fancy), quartered
900g premium sugar
1 Eureka lemon, seeds removed
Juice of 1 tangelo, seeds removed
Cut each dried apricot into four equal pieces.
Put fruit into a pot and add enough water to cover fruit. Soak for six hours overnight.
Warm sugar in oven to 60°C.
Remove and add sugar to fruit, stirring slowly until dissolved. Be careful not to let the jam stick to the bottom of the pot – continue to stir if needed.
Allow it to simmer for 1.5 hours.
Add the lemon and tangelo juice.
Stir continuously for five minutes.
Warm the clean jars and lids in the oven to 60°C. Using a ladle, fill jars with jam and seal.
Have you got a favourite home-made jam recipe? Let us know and share in the comments, below.