Making jam is a great way of using up a glut of allotment grown fruit. It’s also dead easy to do
and, once you get the knack, you can experiment with additions and flavours to create your own wild, fruity combinations. You don’t have to use fresh fruit either – frozen produce works just as well, so freeze as you harvest and you can enjoy jam-making fun times throughout the year.
We like jamming and we hope you like jamming too. Here’s a guide to making your own jam, along with the answers to all your sticky, jam-making questions.
Make Your Own Jam
What Equipment Do I Need to Make My First Batch of Jam?
For your jam making adventure, you will need to assemble the following bits of kit:
- A large, heavy based saucepan
- Jam jars with lids
- Waxed paper discs
- A big wooden spoon
- Fruit (chopped)
How Much Fruit Will I Need?
It depends on how much jam you want to make, but as a rule of thumb a kilogram of fruit will make enough jam to fill 4 x 450g jam jars.
How Much Sugar and Water Do I Need?
Well, it depends on the fruit you want to use, but as a guide, for each 1kg of fruit you’ll need 1kg of sugar. Water quantities can be a bit more, er, fluid. Softer fruit such as strawberries may not need water. Try adding around 300ml for jams that contain less juicy fruits and adjust for subsequent attempts if things don’t go to plan.
What Sugar Should I Use?
Caster or granulated sugar will do just fine, but you can also buy specific jam-making sugar which contains pectin to help make jam from low pectin fruits.
Eh? What’s Pectin?
Pectin is a naturally occurring starch that is found in apples, pears and most citrus fruits. Pectin is what helps jam set and stops your fruity jam-making experiments turning into a big old runny mess. Some fruits, such as berries, stone fruits and tropical fruits are low in pectin. To make decent jam from these you’ll need to mix them with high pectin fruits and add a small quantity of lemon juice which will react with the fruits natural sugars to help with the binding process. You can also buy pectin in powder form – your local health food shop should be able to point you in the right direction.
I’ve Gathered My Ingredients. Now What?
Chuck your fruit, sugar and water into the heavy based pan and place it on a hob. Start on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, then gradually increase to a rolling boil whilst stirring with your big wooden spoon. Continue to boil for 15-20 minutes until you reach the setting point.
What’s ‘Setting Point’ and How Do I Know When I’ve Reached It?
Jam begins to set when it reaches 220ºF. You can either go with the cheat’s method and use a thermometer, or try the traditional ‘wrinkle test’. Pre-chill a saucer in the fridge, then splodge a dollop of jam onto the saucer. Leave it for a minute then give it a prod. If the surface of your jam wrinkles up, it’s set and you are now ready to jar-up. If you don’t get a wrinkle, continue to boil and try again. We find it takes around 30-40 minutes before a jam is ready.
I’m done. Pot Me Up!
Use sterilized jam jars to prevent your jam going mouldy. To sterilize a jam jar, you can either use a sterilizing solution made from a powder such as VWP (a chemical often used for homebrewing) or you can heat the jars in an oven at 160°C for 15 minutes. Shoving them in a hot dishwasher will also do the trick. Carefully ladle the hot jam into your jars – the jam needs to be hot when you pot it up to help with the preserving process. Cover the jam with a waxed paper disc and secure the lid firmly. Add a label to the jar to prevent any jam-related confusion later in the year.
How Long Will My Jam Keep For?
A sealed jam jar will be good for six months or so if you stash it in a cool, dark cupboard.
What’s Wrong With My Jam? It’s Gone All Brown…
Cook jam for too long and you run the risk of caramelising the sugar which will result in a brown-ish jam with very little fruit flavour. A top-notch jam should be a fruity expression of the ingredients that have gone to make it, not just a gelatinous sugary spread. Now, for some folk, this might sound quite appealing but you’re not going to win any prizes down at your local summer féte for a gelatinous sugary spread (unless it’s a specific category).
My Jam is All Runny and I’ve Spilt it All Over My Kitchen Units.
You read the section above on pectin, right?
Three Jams To Try Making at Home
Here’s three classic jams to get you started. We’ve included some suggested quantities, but you might want to experiment to get the consistency you desire.
Damson Jam Recipe
Damson jam is a stone-cold classic, perfect for slathering over hot buttered toast. Don’t forget to save some fruit for damson gin, mind. (You could even add a drop to your jam for added kick)
Suggested quantities: You want to use a bit less sugar for this one. Try 1kg damsons (stones removed), 800g sugar, 300ml water.
Apple and Blackberry Jam Recipe
A fruity pairing made in heaven. If possible, try using Bramley apples – this will give your jam a nice tart twang. Bramleys are also packed with pectin so you shouldn’t have any setting issues.
Suggested quantities: 1kg Bramley apples, 300g blackberries, 1kg sugar, 300ml water. Lob in some thyme leaves if you are feeling fancy.
Gooseberry Jam Recipe
Let’s face it, there’s not loads you can make with gooseberries, but if you’ve got a bountiful gooseberry bush dangling with hairy fruits, you could do no worse than make some tangy jam.
Suggested quantities: 1kg gooseberries, topped and tailed, 1kg sugar, 300ml water.
Have you made any homemade jam from your home-grown fruits? Let us know your favourite jam recipe in the comments