MakingJams & Jellies
Making jam is actually pretty easy and tastes like you wouldn't believe – it makes a great gift too. Most jams need very few ingredients making them fast and simple to prepare. Our recipes are great for first-timers or seasoned cooks. Learn about just how easy it is to make gorgeous jams and get creative in the kitchen.
How to Make Traditional Jams and Jellies
Fruit for jam and jelly making should be fresh and of sound quality. Sugar should be good and clean. Jars, whether of glass or earthenware, may be rolled through very hot, or even boiling, water, then wiped dry and warmed before the preserve is filled into them. Opinions vary as to the wisdom of sealing jams down when hot, There is much to be said in favour of quick sealing, but as many people prefer to seal preserves when cold, it is essential that the little waxed disks should be applied to the top of the jam immediately it is put into the jars. The disk is some preventative against dust and other impurities from the air attacking the contents of the jar.
Many fruits, such as blackcurrants, gooseberries, and damsons, are the better for the addition of water, and in all cases where water is used the fruit and water should be put into the preserving pan together, brought to the boil, and cooked for some time before the sugar is added. It is well to remember that it is the fruit and not the sugar that needs cooking, and jams and jellies subjected to too long boiling with the sugar are apt to – lose colour and flavour, besides being reduced in quantity.
When possible, gather fruit when dry. In very wet seasons, the damp and cold round about fruit-picking time affects jam very seriously, because the fruit has a reduced amount of natural sugar in it. Result, more tendency to mildew and less chance of sound keeping.
There are some fruits that do not contain enough pectin and acid to make the jam set, but there are various ways in which pectin and acid can be added, one being to combine one fruit deficient in these qualities with another which is rich in pectin. For instance, some of the fruits which set well and cover quite a long season are green gooseberries, red currants, firm ripe loganberries, sour apples, damsons, and red unripe blackberries.
The pectin extract from any one of these can be obtained by washing the fruit well, and, in the case of apples, cutting them up without peeling or coring, weighing the fruit before placing it in a pan, allowing 2 pints of water to 6 lb. of fruit.
The method then is to simmer until tender, mashing all occasionally, then turn into a jelly bag, previously scalded with boiling water, and allow the fruit to drip for some hours. A second extract is made by returning the fruit pulp to the preserving pan, adding just suffcient water to make a wet mash; bring it again to the boil and keep it simmering for 1 1/2 hours. Then strain through a freshly scalded bag and mix with the first extract. This makes for economy.
The extract is ready for adding to fruits deficient in pectin and acid at the rate of 1 pint to each 4 lb. of fruit. Fruits which benefit by the addition of extract are: apricots, rhubarb, cherries, strawberries, ripe blackberries, and other fruits which are definitely over-ripe when ready to be turned into jam. Some raspberries and bilberries also benefit by the addition of a little extract when being preserved.
Another great advantage of using extract is that it reduces the time that the fruit would otherwise take to secure a setting.
Lemon juice is one of the finest methods of adding pectin and acid; this is easily added in the proportion of 2 tablespoonfuls of lemon juice to 2 lb. of fruit for such fruit as marrow, pumpkin and rhubarb. Add before starting the cooking of the fruit.
When using poor-setting fruits, the addition of 1 level teaspoonful of tartaric acid or citric acid to each 2 ib. of fruit will help them to set. Crush the acid to fine powder, dissolve in a spoonful of water, and add to the fruit when first put in the preserving pan.
The Importance of Pectin, Glycerine, and Marbles
There are several aids to quick setting of jams and jellies – bottled pectin and pectin in powder form. For busy people with more fruit than time, these special preparations are of real service. They do all that is promised by the manufacturers and, though they may slightly increase the cost of the jam or jelly, I think some allowance must be made for the very definite saving in fuel, labour, and time.
Remember that a glass marble swinging round at the bottom of the pan will help to keep the jam from burning. Add pure glycerine, stirred in 2 or 3 minutes before jam is ready to put up, will help to preserve it. One teaspoonful of glycerine for every 4 lb. of jam.
How to Test Jam for Set
When the jam appears to be thickening and a little hangs on the edge of the wooden spoon when held up, let the first test be made, but before doing so lower the heat, or draw back the pan to the side of the stove so that the preserve will continue to cook at a gentle simmer. Drop a spoonful of jam on a cold plate or saucer and stand it in the cool (a draughty window-sill is helpful). Give the test 5 minutes, tilt the saucer, and if the jam wrinkles a little and has a ‘crépy’ appearance it is ready, and can be potted up at once. On the other hand, if it shows still liquid and smooth, more cooking is called for. Raise the heat once more, and boil briskly for another 5 or 6 minutes before drawing once more to the side and testing a second spoonful.
It is always wise to reduce heat while testing, otherwise the jam may be over-boiled during the time taken up in the set. In a wet season, jam requires several minutes’ longer boil, to drive off the excessive moisture.
A small knob of butter added to jams is useful in imparting a brighter appearance to the preserve and in making scum easier to remove, as the butter aids in colecting it in one place. Butter papers, smeared over the bottom and just up the sides of the preserving pan before putting in the fruit, will make for greater safety against the preserve catching and burning. But care is still called for in adjusting the heat – jam making demands constant watchfulness.
When jam crystallizes it is not a serious fault, so it can be left undisturbed, but whenever a pot is required, just turn the contents into a small saucepan and bring nearly to the boil, then put into a clean pot. Excellent for present use and it is quite clear, but if stored would go sugary on the top again.
Sugarless Fruit-pulp for Jam-making
In the case of raspberries and other soft fruits, put the fruit into a preserving pan over very gentle heat until the juice begins to run, then increase the heat until the preserve is boiling; boil steadily for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring steadily. Continue to boil until you see the somewhat dry pulp draw away a little from the sides of the pan. Have your jars ready to go, they should be clean and dry and hot.