Jam making is now a strangely neglected craft, possibly because the fruit is not so readily available, unless you grow and pick your own. Perfect jam requires the correct proportion of 40% fruit with 60% sugar (including the sugar contained in the fruit), with enough fruit acid, added if necessary, to reach the “setting” point of 104 C. Some fruits, such as Strawberries and Cherries, are particularly low in fruit acids, and need added Lemon Juice to ensure a good set. Take great care not to get burned with this very hot sugar and fruit mixture.
There is the old fashioned method for Jam making where you boil and boil and boil the fruit and sugar mixture until the setting point is reached. While this long boiling method extracts most of the needed pectin from skins and pips, it also drives off much of the volatile flavour and aroma esters, leaving a darkened jam with a boiled flavour. As it spoils good fruit, I do not recommend it. If you insist on using this method, consult a good cook book.
For jams or jelly made by adding additional pectin, the fruit is brought up to boiling point, and then boiled for only an additional 2-5 minutes. This preserves most of the fresh fruit flavour, with liquid pectin added to help the setting process. The added liquid apple pectin is provided by adding the product called “Certo”. There is no need for a Jam thermometer using the “Certo” method.
The larger Sainsbury stores usually stock “Certo” in the jam making season, and you can check by phone to see if they have it in stock.
Jam sugar with added pectin is also available from larger supermarkets. The packets usually have a web address where you can obtain jam recipes using the product.
Powdered pectin can also be bought separately, and added to ordinary granulated sugar.
Jam making equipment.
Large jam pan. Specialised wide jam pans can be very expensive, but you may find that some of your older relations, may still have a jam pan that you could use. Alternatively, try using a large container such as a pressure cooker base, without the lid.
Large spoon and ladle. You will need a long handled wooden spoon, as well as a soup ladle to fill your glass bottles with the jam.
Glass Bottles with metal lids must be sterilised and hot before filling them with jam. The lids must be protected with a plastic film to prevent corrosion from the fruit acids. Most lids will already have this plastic film attached, but some honey jars do not have it. Save glass jars and their undamaged lids and re-use them for your own jams or jellies. Only use undamaged lids to ensure that the glass jars seal properly.
Jelly bag with stand. If you are going to make a jelly rather than jam, you will need a jelly bag with a stand.
Check if your Granny still has her old Jelly Bag, but failing that, you should still be able to buy them in Season at John Lewis or Lakeland.
Jam and Jelly making recipes.
My favourite recipes for jams are such as Strawberry, Blackberry, Raspberry, Blackcurrant, Gooseberry, and Plum.
My favourite recipes for jellies are red currant and blackberry. To prepare the fruit, it must be crushed with a potato masher or similar, simmered for 5 to 10 minutes to kill off any bacteria and to release the pectin from the pips and skin, and then allowed to drip through a “jelly bag”. Do not force the mixture through the bag or the jelly will not be clear.
Numerous “Certo” recipes, covering most types of Jams and Jellies are available on-line at www.certo.co.uk
For Jostaberry Jam, and Worcesterberry jam use the blackcurrant recipe.
Huckleberry Jam. Only use the fruit of the Garden Huckleberry (Solanum nigrum var. Guineense ), when the fruit has turned black in late Autumn. I have mixed feelings about the taste of this Jam, but for completeness I have included it. The colour is a very curious purple. Wash 3 lb fruit, add ½ pt water, and boil until the fruit bursts and is tender. Add 5 lb sugar and juice of 2 oranges and 2 lemons and bring to boil. Add a knob of butter to reduce foaming, maintain a rolling boil for 2 minutes, take off heat and add 1 bottle of Certo. Bottle in sterilised bottles.
Added optional ingredients to Jams and Jellies.
I often add a tablespoon of a spirit, such as whisky, rum or brandy, and stir it into each jar of jam before I screw down the lid. Do not get too enthusiastic and add more than that, or you may find that the Jam will no longer set!
Sometimes, I add a few Walnuts or Crystallised Ginger pieces, to the boiling Jam but make sure that there are some in each jar, after you have ladled in the jam.