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Jam-making Jammaker style!
Member Name: jammaker49
Date: 02/01/02, updated on 02/01/02 (7023 review reads)
Advantages: Less sugar than shop bought, Great satisfaction
Disadvantages: Takes time
I am often asked by the family why I don't make pastry and cakes like my mum. The truth is, I don't enjoy making them, and they never turn out like Mum's anyway! So I don't bother. I do, however, in the course of a year, churn out what must run into hundreds of jars of jam, of all different flavours.
I am lucky enough to have the facilities to grow all my own fruit, so I know for sure that there are no additives of any description in my jam. Wherever we go, you can rest assured there will be a few jars of jam in the boot of the car, to give as presents.
I don't claim to know the secret of making perfect jam, but these tips will help anyone who would like to have a go, but doesn't feel very confident. This is what I do, and it works for me.
First, you have to have containers in which to put your jam once made! My family and friends all collect empty jars for me. I personally prefer small jars (mint sauce jars are a good size) although I do use jars which hold up to a pound in weight. Try and collect the lids as well.
You will also need wax paper discs and circular jam pot covers. I usually get mine in Boots or Tescos, and although my jars are only up to a pound size, I prefer the 2lb covers. They come complete in sets with the rubber bands to hold the covers in place. In the packets, you will also find small sticky labels which you can stick on the jars to indicate which flavour jam is in the jar.
The jam jars need to be scrupulously clean before use. I always put any jars I get straight into the dishwasher on a very hot wash, then do the same again as I am about to use them. This also heats the jars ready for the hot jam to be poured in. If you pour hot jam into cold jars, the glass will crack.
If you don't have a dishwasher, clean the jars in as hot water as you can stand, using a baby bottle brush to make sure there is no residue of the contents lurking down the bottom of the jar. T
hen place the jars in a warm oven, to prevent them going cold.
To make the jam.
You will need as large a saucepan as possible, as the jam needs to boil rapidly, and will rise in consequence. I use the base of my pressure cooker for this purpose.
Select your fruit with care. You are better having slightly under-ripe fruit, than squashy over-ripe, although a little of the latter won't make a lot of difference.
Depending on which flavour you are making, you may need to add either a fruit which has a lot of pectin (setting agent) or a bottle of liquid pectin. Sour apples are a good source of pectin, as are redcurrants, blackcurrants and gooseberries.
When making strawberry jam, I always add one pound of apple to every 3 pounds of strawberries, and a jar of liquid pectin, as strawberries are notoriously difficult to get a good set with. To raspberries I add one pound of redcurrants to every 3 pounds of raspberries for the same reason. Apples also go well with blackberries. Most other fruits will set with the addition of the liquid pectin alone.
Select your fruit, and weigh carefully. In shop bought jam, the ratio of fruit to sugar is usually 40% to 60% or sometimes even less. I make my jams using 50% to 50%. So whatever the weight of the fruit (and I suggest you do no more than 4lb fruit at a time) you will also need that weight of sugar.
Place the fruit in the pan, adding just enough water to stop it sticking. As it heats, the juices will begin to flow, and create their own liquid.
Heat slowly, stirring periodically until the fruit is just below the boil. You can mash the hot fruit if desired, or you can elect to leave it whole. It will break down to a certain extent anyway.
Begin to add the sugar, a little at a time, stirring until it has all dissolved.
Now add the liquid pectin, and about 4 tablespoons of lemon juice. The acid helps with the setting.
Once the sugar has a
ll dissolved, bring to a rapid boil. You will need to watch the jam at this point as it can easily boil over if left.
Lower the heat, until the mixture is at a rolling boil. This is when it is clearly boiling, but not rising up the pan. Simmering is not enough. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
After about 10 minutes, spoon a little of the mixture onto a cold saucer, and place in the fridge. When cold, if a skin had formed on top, and the resulting mixture has thickened considerably, it has reached setting point, and is ready for potting. If it is still liquid, continue boiling, and try the setting test again.
Once setting point has been reached, remove the pan from the heat, and allow to stand for 5 minutes. If a white bubbly skin forms, remove with a spoon. Stir the mixture thoroughly. Remove the hot jars from the dishwasher or oven and place on a wooden board.
I use a jug and funnel to pot my jam. The funnel needs to have a wide base, to fit into the jars. Pour jam from the pan into the jug, and using the funnel, fill the jars to the brim. Continue until all the jam has been used.
Place a waxed paper disc on top of the jam in each jar. Then cover with a circular jampot cover, and secure with an elastic band. The covers should be stretched taut, to create an airtight seal when cold. If you have saved the lids to the jars, these can be placed on top of the pot covers.
Allow to cool, then wipe down any drips on the outsides of the jars, and label. I have created my own labels with my name on, but I use the plain white ones in the packets of covers to state which flavour is in the jar.
You can vary which flavours to make. The most bizarre I've done is marrow and ginger! But you can use just about any fruit, or combinations of fruit.
My personal favourites are strawberry, and Victoria plum, but greengage has a wonderful colour, and mixed fruit is always different, depending on which fr
uits are used, and in which amounts. Gooseberry jam is bright red, which was a shock to me a first!
This then, is my method of jam-making. It works for me. If you give it a go, let me know how it turns out.