Follow this ten step guide for foolproof jam making even for beginners!
Before you begin jam making
1. Sugar can harden certain fruits, so simmer tougher fruits to soften the skin before adding the sugar.
2. Equally, softer fruits can fall apart while cooking so benefit from being soaked in sugar to firm them up prior to cooking.
3. You will need a preserving pan or large, heavy based saucepan, a funnel and a set of clean jam jars. These will need to be sterilised but this is best done while the jam is cooking so they are still warm when filled.
Cooking process in jam making
4. Keep the cooking temperature low at the beginning to give the sugar plenty of time to dissolve, as if the sugar is still in granules when the mixture reaches boiling point the jam may not set and will be sugary. Dip a wooden spoon into the syrup and if there are sugar crystals visible in the liquid coating the back of it, the sugar has yet to fully dissolve.
5. You will build up jam making experience but start small to avoid costly and frustrating disasters. Larger quantities of mixture take a long time to come to the boil and are more difficult to set.
6. Checking when the jam is ready to set is easy. When you start cooking, place a few saucers in your freezer. When you are ready to test the jam mixture, put a teaspoon of the syrup onto one of the cold saucers and place in the fridge. If, after a minute cooling, the surface of the jam wrinkles when gently prodded with a finger, the jam is ready to set. If it is still liquid, keep boiling and retest every five minutes until you reach setting point.
7. You will notice some unsightly scum rising to the surface of your jam while cooking. Rather than constantly skimming, simply stir in a knob of butter to disperse the scum at the end of the cooking time.
8. After removing the pan from the heat, let it rest for 15 minutes. Pour the jam into clean, sterilised jars through a funnel. Top each full jar with a waxed lid to seal the contents properly then add a good, airtight lid.
9. Store the sealed jars in a cool, dry and dark place until you are ready to open them, after which they should be stored in the refrigerator.
10. If your jam refuses to set in its jars, tip it all back in the pan and reboil with the juice of a lemon.