Making jam is hot, time consuming and messy, right?
Done the traditional way it can be, but follow our easy guide to jam nirvana without any drama.
Learning how to make jam means you can use up a shed load of fruit and keep it in the fridge for ages. It conjures up images of grandmas and aunties, with a wooden spoon the size of a shovel, spending hours and hours at the stove. But it really doesn't have to be that way.
The Basic Basics
When it comes to ingredients, there's not a lot to remember about jam. You need fruit and sugar—that's it! You can add other ingredients like a squeeze of lemon juice along the way, but really fruit and sugar are all you need.
The best fruits for making jam are berries and currants. They don't even have to be pretty ones! OK, so you don't fruits that would squish into nothing if you just looked at them the wrong way, but really the odd blemish or soft spot is fine for jam making. This is no beauty pageant.
The best sugar for jam making is the kind often labeled as "jam sugar" (duh), or "pectin sugar." As these names advertise, this sugar has added pectin in it, which makes setting your jam a whole lot easier. Pectin is naturally found in fruit and when you cook it, pectin is released. You don't have to use jam sugar, but you may get a softer setting jam than if you use the conventional white stuff.
Use the same weight in sugar that you are using in fruit. If you are a little short on the sugar front, that's OK—it's better than the other way around. Chop up really big berries, but smaller ones can be used whole. Throw it all in a bowl the night before your jam session so the sugar can start dissolving. This gives you a head start and stops the fruit from overcooking. If this is your first go with this type of fruit, then make a small quantity to begin with.
Put a few saucers in the freezer (weird, but we'll get to it). Use the biggest, widest based pan you have, and put in the contents of your bowl. Start it off on a gentle heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then get up to a simmer for about 5 minutes.
When Is My Jam Ready?
Take the pan off the heat and try this test. Put a small amount of jam onto one of your chilled out saucers. Once cooled, give it a push with your finger. If it's ready, then the jam will wrinkle a little. If it's too runny, then heat it up again.
OK, So I Know How to Make Jam Now...But It's Not Setting!
If your jam is refusing to set for you, there's still hope. If you think it's on the way to being ready, then just give it a few more minutes, and keep testing it. If this is becoming a real problem, then add a squeeze of lemon juice. You can even boost your setting power by using the lemon pips in a muslin bag and putting it into the jam mix. The pips contain pectin, which should help your jam to set.
You can, of course, use a combination of fruits to make jam. If you have any favorite combos be sure and comment below!