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Making Jam

An introduction to making your own jam

Making Jam

preserving | fruits | grow your own | recipes

Making jam is the ideal way to preserve the taste and nutritional value of summer fruits so that they can be enjoyed throughout the year. It also ensures that a glut of produce will not go to waste or become boring!

Making jam from a fruit harvest

Many people use pectin (a plant derived powder) as a setting agent, however it is possible to make wonderful well set jams using just sugar and fruit since the fruit itself contains pectin.

Making Jam

If you have never made jam before, you will be surprised at how simple it is. The most important thing to remember is that the pan, spoon, and jars used must be scrupulously clean to prevent bacteria from getting into the jam and spoiling it. Making jam with 1 - 2kg of fruit at a time is ideal - more than that and it is difficult to get the jam to set because it cannot be boiled fast enough. 2kg of fruit is enough to fill 6 standard sized 450g jam jars.

Ideally fruit should be used as soon as possible after picking - and some not quite ripe fruit should be included in the mix since it contains a higher level of pectin which will help the jam to set. The fruit should be crushed (how much depends on the desired texture) and simmered in a pan for around half an hour. While simmering pectin will be drawn out of the fruit.

Next add an equal weight of caster sugar * to the weight of the fruit - i.e. 1kg of sugar to 1kg of fruit - and heat the mixture gently until all of the sugar has dissolved. If the sugar is heated in the oven before use it will dissolve into the fruit juices much faster. Test if the sugar has all dissolved by dipping a spoon into the mixture so its back is coated and check there are no sugar crystals visible. The raise the temperature so the mixture boils rapidly, stirring occassionally to prevent the jam sticking to the bottom of the pan.
* Different fruits require a different ratio of fruit to sugar. Check out recipes online for the fruit(s) you plan to use.

One thing to note is that sugar hardens fruit. Therefore, if you are making jam from soft fruits such as strawberries, you should mix the fruit with sugar and heat them together from the start. This will help prevent the fruit from disintegrating when heated.

Raspberry jam boiling

Any froth/scum which accumulates on the surface of the mixture can be skimmed off carefully while boiling.

It is important not to overcook the jam, therefore you have to check regularly to see if the jam is ready to set. Put a teaspoon of the jam onto a (fridge cooled) plate and let it cool down for 30 seconds to a minute. If it remains as a runny liquid, it is not ready to set and so you need to continue heating. If however it has thickened with a skin on top, and it wrinkles when pushed with the spoon or a finger, then it is ready to set.

Turn off the heat and leave the jam to cool for around 15 minutes without stirring. This will start the setting process and also prevent any solid fruit from floating up to the top of the jar when it is decanted.

Blackberry and raspberry jams

Pour the finished jam into sterilised hot dry jam jars using a sterilised funnel and immediately cover the surface of the jam with waxed paper discs (for example, grease proof paper) and seal with a sterilised lid or cellophane. When the jars are completely cool stick on a label with a description of the contents and the date made.

If the jam does not set in the jars, then pour it back into the pan and boil it up again, this time with the juice of a small lemon.

Jam Recipes

Different fruits have different levels of pectin and therefore will set differently. Fruits such as blackcurrants, redcurrants, gooseberries, and cooking apples have high levels of pectin and so will set will. Fruits such as strawberries, cherries, and blackberries have low levels of pectin and so will not set too well. Therefore, it is common to mix fruits with high pectin with fruits with low pectin in order to make delicious well set jams.

Sterilising Equipment

To sterilise the jars, funnel and spoons before use, wash them on the hottest dishwasher setting (or in very hot soapy water), rinse with boiling water from the kettle, and drain them thoroughly on a clean tea towel. Alternatively wash well in soapy water and place the jam jars in a cool over (130 degrees C) for around 20 minutes. This will dry the jars as well as sterilising them.

Storing Jam

Jam should be stored in a cool, dry, dark location. If it is steamy or damp - for example, in a kitchen - the moist atmosphere can cause mould to form on the surface of the jam. If mould should form on the surface, you can simply discard the top 1/2 to 1 inch of jam since the rest of the jam will still be good to eat. A waxed disc dipped in brandy or other alcohol will prevent mould from returning.

Jam should be eaten within one year so you will be ready to make a new batch the following summer!

Shopping List

Here are some useful links to relevant products:
jam jars
jam thermometer

Article Published: 08:33, 22nd May 2010

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