How to Make Jam
The technique for jam making will vary a little according to the fruit used. The following is intended as a general guideline only.
- Prepare the fruit by removing stalks, leaves and washing the fruit in cold water.
- Pits should be removed from stone fruit, although some recipes may call for you to leave the pit in and remove later by straining the jam.
- Fruit is cooked with or without water depending on the water content of the individual fruit type, i.e. berry fruits do not usually require the addition of water whereas stone fruits usually do.
- Cook the fruit until it has softened and broken down.
- Add sugar and pectin (pectin is required for some type of fruit to facilitate setting).
- Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
- Raise heat and boil rapidly without stirring taking care that it does not boil so hard that the jam rises to the top of the pan (stir occasionally and gently should this happen).
- Setting time is usually achieved within 5 – 15 minutes if the initial cooking process was sufficient enough to properly soften the fruit. Take care not to overcook soft berries as the jam will discolour and the flavour and texture will be spoiled.
- Remove any scum from the top of the pan and pour the jam into the warm, clean jars leaving 12mm below the rim for head space. Jam that contains whole fruit should be left to set to a hard crinkle surface before bottling as this prevents the fruit from rising to the top of the jam.
- Seal jars tightly, label once cool and store in a dark, cool pantry or larder.
What is Pectin?
Pectin is released from the fruit during the softening process. It is a natural setting or jellying substance that occurs in most ripe fruit. The riper the fruit the lower the pectin content hence the setting quality also lowers. Fruit with low pectin content will require the addition of lemon juice or citric acid.
Alternatively you can also:
- Mix high and low pectin content fruits to achieve a balance.
- Add the juice produced from boiling high pectin fruit such as apples or redcurrants.
- Add commercially produced pectin in liquid or powdered form.
How do you know how much pectin is in your fruit?
- Simmer some of the fruit until the juice starts to run out.
- Strain a small amount of the juice into a small jar; approximately a teaspoon full is enough.
- Add three teaspoons of methylated spirits to the bowl once the juice is cool.
- Shake the jar and then let it stand for about 2 minutes.
- If a large jelly like lump occurs you have high pectin fruit, if it forms two or three lumps you have medium pectin fruit, if it breaks into small pieces you have low pectin fruit.
Make sure that you fruit is cooked to soft texture before adding pectin.
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice per 2 kg of fruit is sufficient.
- 150ml of fruit juice to 2kg of fruit.
- Add commercial pectin by following the instructions on the packet.
Typical pectin levels in fruits
- Fruit with high pectin content includes: all citrus fruits (i.e. lemons, oranges, grapefruit etc.) cooking apples, crab apples plums, currants, quince, damson, gooseberries etc.
- Fruit with medium pectin content includes: apricots, raspberries, blackberries, loganberries.
- Fruit with low pectin content includes: strawberries, rhubarb, pears, cherries, grapes, pineapple and figs.
How much sugar do you need?
The amount of sugar used in jam making is dependent on the pectin content of your fruit. Too much sugar causes the jam to crystallise, too little sometimes causes the jam to ferment. Personal preference also comes into it; use less sugar for a fruity preserve, but remember that the jam may not keep as long.
The following is a good general guideline:
- High pectin fruits: 500g fruit requires 500-700g of sugar.
- Medium pectin fruits: 500g fruit requires 500g sugar.
- Low pectin fruits: 500g fruit requires 350g sugar.
Tip: Preserving sugar i.e. cubed or granulated causes less scum to form and makes a clearer jam.
How do I know that my jam has set?
Follow the recipe for cooking times then test to see if setting point has been reached as follows:
- Place a teaspoon of the hot mix onto a cold saucer and leave it to cool. Once cool the surface of the jam should crinkle when you push it with your finger. Runny jam has not set and should be boiled for a further period. Test every 3-5 minutes to make sure that the jam doesn’t overcook.
- Dip a wooden spoon into the jam mixture, remove, and if the jam drops from the spoon in large drops then the jam is set.
- Stir jam, insert a warm candy thermometer into the top half of the mix (to avoid breakage don’t let the thermometer touch the bottom of the pan). The jam will be at setting point once the temperature reads between 104 – 107° Celsius.
Producing and preserving your own food
Growing your own fruit, harvesting it, and preserving some of it in the form of jam is just one of the ways to live a more environmentally sound, self-sufficient lifestyle. Producing your own food can also mean that you are more aware of how it has been produced (i.e. without chemicals, or various additives), and can also potentially save you money.
ACS offer a selection of courses on self-sufficiency and permaculture. You can learn about the practical steps you can take to live in a more self-sufficient manner, whilst learning more about your environment.
Our courses are studied by distance learning, and can be started at any time. Our methods encourage students to both understand our courses material, but also to retain it in their long term memories. Learning is enhanced through repetition, the progressive development of concepts, and practical assignments and tasks which require students to consider and reflect upon the information being presented to them.
If you have any questions about studying with ACS, or about any of our courses, please get in touch with our specialist Self-Sufficiency and Permaculture tutors today. They will be pleased to answer your questions and outline different course options to suit your study goals.
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