We’ve all had that frustrating moment when no matter how many times to you re-read the ‘oh-so-easy’ recipe your jam just doesn’t look like its meant to. Sometimes recipes don’t tell you all the info you need to be able to pull off that jam masterpiece – below are my top ten tips for perfect jam each and every time.
1. Possibly the most important tip – Always use the best fruit you can with minimal damage/bruising. Fruit with too much damange will cause the jam to spoil or deteriorate quickly. My test is if the fruit doesnt taste good in the beginning with it wont make the best jam
2. Mash tough-skinned fruit (I usually do about 1/2 ) either at the beginning or after a few minutes over low heat. This will speed up the jam’s thickening process and the less time on the stove the more flavour you will have.
3. Simmer tough-skinned fruit first then sugar. Sugar has a hardening effect, so tough-skinned fruits should always be simmered before the sugar is added to the pan.
4. Harden soft-skinned fruit in sugar before cooking. For soft-skinned fruit, such as strawberries, which tend to disintegrate when cooked, soak them in sugar first, to harden them and help keep the fruit whole in the finished jam.
5. The sugar should be completely dissolved before the jam reaches the boil, otherwise it will be difficult to set and the finished jam will be sugary. To test if the sugar is dissolved, dip a wooden spoon in, turn it over and if no sugar crystals are visible in the liquid that coats the back of the spoon, it has indeed dissolved. (To be quite sure, stir well and repeat this test a couple of times.) To speed up the dissolving process, you can warm the sugar in a bowl in the oven before adding it.
5. Small batches. Don’t try to make too large a quantity of jam in one go. It will take far too long to come to the boil, and then will not boil rapidly enough to produce a good set.
7. To skim or not to skim. Some recipes call for you to skim the foam/scum that rises to the surface while the jam is boiling. I say don’t worry because if you keep skimming it off, you’ll finish with no jam at all! Instead, wait until you have a set, then remove the jam from the heat and stir in a small lump of butter, which will disperse the scum.
8. Once the jam has set, leave it to settle for 10 minutes – particularly with jam containing whole fruit, such as strawberry or damson, or chunky marmalade – to prevent the fruit from rising to the top when it’s poured into the jar.
9. Don’t put the labels on until the jam is cold – otherwise the heat will prevent them sticking properly and they’ll fall off.
10. Store in a cool, dry and preferably dark place. Too much light is not good for storage, while a damp or steamy atmosphere can cause mould to develop on the surface of the jam.
What would your top tip be for beginning preservers?
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