03 March 2020

Back to Basics Make It: How to Make Jam


I was shocked a few years ago to learn that jam making was a Year 12 Home Economics subject, because it's considered too difficult for "children" to make.  Well it's not. Hannah has been making jam on her own since she was 9 or 10 years old, and before that she helped me.

Have you priced bought jam recently? I mean nice jam, not the cheap stuff (it's cheap for a reason and a really good reason to learn to make jam). It can be over $5 a 375g jar!

Jam making is easy. Truly! You don't need special equipment, or any special skills. It's not rocket science people, it's a simple cooking method that preserves fruit quickly, easily and cheaply for years. Yes, years! Jam, properly made and stored, lasts for years and years and years.
 I have two ways to make jam, and I choose the method depending on how busy I am and how much jam I am making.

The first method is the traditional, cook in a big pot on the stove method. I use this method when I am doing a double batch of jam. It needs constant attention and watching. But it's still simple and easy.

For this method take two kilos of fruit (berries, apricots, plums, peaches, nectarines), stones removed if they have them (weigh the fruit after removing the stones/pits). Cut the fruit into chunks and put them into a stockpot or a very large saucepan. Using a stockpot saves worrying about boiling over; sometimes the hot jam will froth up when it's cooking and can easily boil over - trust me when I say you don't want to be cleaning up that mess!

Add the same weight in white sugar. So, if you have two kilos of fruit, use two kilos of sugar. You may see some recipes where the amount of sugar has been cut down; I don't recommend this. The sugar acts with the fruit juice and the pectin in the fruit to form the jelly part of jam that makes it set and it helps to preserve it. Not enough sugar and you will need to add a setting agent such as Jamsetta. I've never used Jamsetta or pectin and I've never had a failed batch of jam, but I ALWAYS use equal quantities of fruit and sugar.

I use regular white sugar. You can buy jam sugar, but seriously, it's an extra expense when regular white sugar does the same job.

Add the juice of one lemon.

Stir the sugar into the fruit. Put a saucer or bread and butter plate in the freezer (you'll use this for testing setting point soon).

Turn the stove on, medium heat, and stir the pot, scraping down the sides, until the mixture starts to bubble. By now the sugar should be dissolved and the fruit is starting to get soft. If the sugar isn't dissolved, keep stirring and scraping down the side of the pot until it is. A glass of cold water and a pastry brush is good for this, but your spoon will do.

Turn the heat up and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. A rolling boil is when you have lots of bubbles forming and bursting all over the surface of the jam. Stir the pot, making sure nothing is stuck to the bottom - you don't want it to burn. The jam may start to froth up - if this happens, give it a good, fast stir, and keep an eye on it. If it continues to happen, turn the heat down slightly.

Let it boil, stirring every couple of minutes to make sure it doesn't stick or burn, for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, take a teaspoon of jam and tip it onto the plate from the freezer. This is to test if the jam is at setting point*. If the jam is at setting point it will form a skin and not run if you tip the plate once it's cold (the frozen plate speeds up the cooling). If it isn't set, put the plate in the freezer,  keep the jam cooking and test again after 10 minutes. Continue until the jam sets on the frozen plate (don't forget to stir so it doesn't stick to the pot or burn.).

When the jam reaches setting point, turn it off. Give it stir, and mash the fruit or carefully use a stick blender to break down the fruit chunks. It will keep bubbling for a few minutes - this is normal. Let it sit about 5 minutes, then ladle it into HOT sterilised jars*. Put the lids on immediately and leave until cold. You should hear the lids popping as they seal.
The second method I use is the microwave method. It's no quicker, but I don't need to pay as close attention to it. This method is best for small batches, no more than 1 kilo of fruit to 1 kilo of sugar.

You'll need a very big, heatproof, microwave safe bowl. I use a 3.5 litre Pyrex bowl, it's the biggest I have.

Put the fruit, sugar and lemon juice into the bowl. Stir.

Cook on HIGH for 10 minutes.

Stir well.

Cook on HIGH for 10 minutes. Stir. Do the setting test. Sometimes the jam will be ready after 20 minutes cooking, so it pays to test. I

If it's not ready yet, cook on HIGH for another 10 minutes, keeping an eye on it. It's this stage where it's most likely to froth up and boil over. If you see it rising in the bowl, turn it off, stir and continue cooking. Test again - it should be ready by now, but if it's not, cook in five minute bursts.

Once the jam is cooked, mash the fruit or carefully use a stick blender to break down the fruit, then follow the instructions above to bottle it.

Some things to remember:

Jars: I re-use jam jars for jam. They come with a lid that will seal again, so you don't need to worry about cutting jam covers, finding rubber bands etc.  The trick is to just use jam jar lids for jam. Don't be tempted to use pasta sauce or pickle or whatever jars and lids. The jars will be fine, glass doesn't hold flavours or smells, but the rubber ring in the lid does. Play it safe and believe me when I say - pickle flavoured raspberry jam is awful (can you guess how I know?).

Setting point: how long it takes to reach setting point will vary from batch to batch, which is why I start testing after 20 minutes. Some fruit will be full of natural pectin and form jam quickly, some will take a bit longer. The size of the batch you are making will also affect the time it takes to reach setting point. I try to not make more than 2 kilos of fruit at a time; anymore and the chance of it sticking and burning increases and it the jam takes longer to cook.

Frothing is normal, it should form a frothy, bubbly top. Just stir it in. You can skim it off the top once the jam is cooked if you want to, I don't bother. Another trick is to stir 1 teaspoon butter into the jam; the froth will disappear.

Don't be afraid to stir and scrape down the sides of your pot or bowl.

Jam is VERY HOT. Keep kids and pets away, especially when you are bottling it, in case of accidents. If you do get a splash of hot jam on you, run the burn area under cold running water for at least 10 minutes. If blisters form, get medical advice.

1 comment:

  1. Hello there Cath.

    I am sorry, I didn't realise you were still posting here on your blog. I thought you would have enough on your plate doing facebook pages and now you-tube, plus whatever else you get up to haha! For some reason the sidebar on my blog is not updating your posts. Says you last posted 3 years ago lol! Dont know what is going on there.

    I love the idea of these back to basics posts, and will be checking in on here more often.

    I have a heap of fruit frozen from summer and I intend to make jam now that the weather has cooled down. There is a ton of figs in the freezer, so fig jam will be the first one on the list!

    Have a lovely weekend,
    xTania



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