One of the most important but, for many people, most daunting parts of jam making is how to determine preserve setting points.
Signs you have reached preserve setting points
All preserves are different and will reach setting points in different ways. In general, is a preserve is reaching its setting point you will notice that the mixture is boiling more noisily than before and that larger bubbles will be developing on the surface. You might also find that the mixture is not rising in the vigorous way it did earlier and is more settled in the pan.
It may only take a few minutes for some preserves to reach setting point, while other can take 20 minutes of more, so it’s important to be vigilant over your preserve pan and start testing early, otherwise you could easily pass the setting point and overcook the mixture.
Testing preserve setting points with the wrinkle method
Probably the easiest way to test for a setting point is by using the wrinkle method. Before you begin preparing your preserve, put a couple of saucers into the freezer. When you are ready to test for setting, take a cold saucer and use a teaspoon to put a drop of preserve mixture onto it. Leave the drop to cool for a minute then use the tip of a finger to gently push it. If the drop has formed a slight skin which wrinkles when you push, the setting point has been reached. If not, keep cooking and re-test regularly.
Testing preserve setting points with the flake method
For this method, stir a clean wooden spoon around in the preserve pan so that the head is fully coated in the mixture. Remove the spoon and allow to cool a little, then hold it vertically over the pan. If the mixture drops down the spoon’s head and hangs on the bottom, you have found your setting point. If the mixture slides off the spoon back into the pan, keep cooking and te-test regularly.
Alternatively, you could invest in a sugar thermometer, which is capable of measuring temperatures up to 250C. Stir the thermometer around in the pan to make sure you get an overall temperature reading rather than a hot or cool spot. Jams and marmalades are ready to set when the thermometer reads between 104-105.5C.
You test chutneys slightly differently. Use a clean wooden spoon to drag a channel through the chutney mixture across the base of the pan. If liquid fills up the channel immediately then the chutney isn’t ready. If the channel remains then the chutney has reached setting point.