Some small tweaks can make the difference between average home made jam and really delicious home made jam. Follow these jam making tips to elevate your home made preserves from amateur to Great British Bake Off levels of excellence.
Jam making tips: preparation
1. Start with good quality ingredients. Preserving may be a way of using up unwanted fruits and veg but probably the best of all preserving tips is to start with good quality produce.
2. Sterilise all of your equipment before you begin. Buy new lids rather than re-using old ones as these can harbour germs.
3. Work out if you need pectin. Some fruits – black and redcurrants, quinces, and apples, for example, contain plenty of natural pectin and set quite easily.
Low pectin fruits such as cherries, strawberries and pears will need some help from preserving sugar, which contains added pectin, or lemon juice.
Jam making tips: cooking
4. Don’t boil the jam until the sugar has completely dissolved or it could crystallise in the jar or fail to set properly. Add the sugar once the fruit has softened in the pan and released lots of juice.
5. There’s no dark art to finding the setting point. You can use a thermometer but there’s another simple, easy preserving tip. Before you start cooking, place a couple of small saucers in the freezer. When you want to test your jam, drop a dollop onto one of the cold saucers, leave it for a minute then prod the drop gently with a forefinger. If a skin has formed and wrinkles when pushed, the jam is ready. If not, keep boiling and retest regularly. In theory the shorter the cooking time, the looser the jam and the longer you boil, the firmer the set.
6. Chutney has reached setting point when the mixture parts cleanly and leaves a channel when you drag a spoon along the bottom of the pan.
7. As you cook you’ll notice a scum appear on top of your mixture. This is normal but must be removed before bottling. Either skim off at the end of cooking or add 10 g of butter and watch the scum disperse.
Jam making tips: bottling
8. Bottle or jar your preserves while still warm or hot, into jars which are also still warm or hot from sterilising. Use a funnel to avoid mess.
9. Always label your preserves with details of the contents and the date produced.
10. Remember that sometimes it will go wrong and fail to set or will set too hard!