There is nothing quite like home-made jam, it is full of flavour, should have zero additives or preservatives and is extremely easy to make. Follow these few simple rules and you will get perfect jam every time.
- To make perfect jam you need to use a blend of fully ripe and slightly under-ripe fruit. Many people think that good jam is only made using very over-ripe fruit … this is incorrect as the sugars in the over-ripe fruit have already begun to deteriorate. You need to have a blend of the mature and slightly immature natural sugars to make good jam.
- When I use the word immature I DO NOT mean green un-ripened fruit. Un-ripened fruit adds no flavour to a jam.
- Always use a ratio of at least 1:1 or better still 1:1½ – fruit:sugar. To make the perfect jam you need to add at least equally quantities in weight of sugar to the fruit as it cooks, so it will set correctly. Far too many people try to cut down the amount of sugar added, thinking their final jam will be less sweet and thereby healthier for them but in reality, jams made with low sugar:fruit ratios rarely set.
- If a jam is not set correctly, it will not taste right, it will not spread properly and it will not store well – unset jams are likely to spoils once stored or soon after opening.
- Add the zest and juice of any citrus fruit to your jam whilst cooking, as this will help it set.
- Different fruits have different levels of natural sugar and pectin, adding lemon, orange, lime or grapefruit zest and juice will enhance the flavour of the fruit as well as add extra pectin to ensure the jam sets. 1 citrus per kilo of fruit should be sufficient.
- DO NOT stir your jam endlessly as it cooks.
- Repeatedly stirring your jam as it cooks, reduces heat in the mixture and inhibits the setting processes from developing in the jam. Cook jams on a low steady heat and stir infrequently.
- Have patience when making jam.
The weather, the fruit type and its ripeness as well as, the amount of fruit used in an individual jam making session will all affect the time taken for jam to develop a setting point. Most fruits will develop a setting point with 30 minutes of constant cooking but some (especially the berries) may take up to an hour.
Makes – 7 large 500 ml jars (approximately)
2 kg season fresh fruit (chopped small)
2 kg white sugar
1 lemon zest and juice
1 orange zest and juice
1 cup water
a number of sterilised jars in which to store your jam
a few china saucers placed into the freezer at the commencement of cooking.
1. Place fruit and water into a heavy based pot (stainless steel, copper or enamel – not aluminium) and heat over a medium heat. Cook for between 5 and 10 minutes until the fruit is well softened.
2. Add the sugar and allow it to melt and be absorbed by the fruit and liquid (a few minutes), once absorbed add the zest and juice and mix through.
3. The mixture needs to be cooked at a low and steady heat for anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes (depending on the fruit used and the size of the pieces). The mixture should not boil vigorously but instead at a steady gently bubble. Resist the urge to stir the mixture constantly – instead stir it spasmodically merely to ensure that it is not catching and burning on the bottom of the pot. If it is catching and burning – turn down the heat.
- Further, as the mixture cooks it create some foam and residual scum on the surface of the mixture. Use a small ladle or spoon to remove the foam and scum from the surface regularly.
4. As the mixture bubbles and boils it will gradually thicken and take on a caramelised sheen. Once you see this change you can commence to test the jam to see if it has reached its setting point. The setting point can be easily tested by dropping a small spoonful of jam onto the surface of a chilled plate. If after a few minutes it forms a crinkly skin and you can run a finger through the jam and it does not seep – it has achieved the setting point. If not continue cooking and try again in 5 minutes.
5. Once the jam is set, carefully pour into sterilised jar and screw on the lid. Then turn jars upside-down and allow to cool.
6. Jars can then be labelled and stored in a cool dark place until needed or given as gifts.