The Tip Jar #6 - Homemade Jam
Not a kit person?
Although we are very excited to launch Sky's Magic Jam Maker, we understand some people are not kit people. Some are happy to learn over time as they train the hand and eye. Failure is, of course, part of success. Developing something that goes beyond a casual activity to a way of life is a fulfilling practice.
The collecting of jars in anticipation of the harvest, whether it's fruit from your own garden, a Pick-Your-Own farm down the road, or a two-for-one deal on punnets of apricots at Sainsbury's, can be a joyfully solitary experience.
But a little guidance never hurt anyone.
Preserving is one of the many skills that would have been handed down from generation to generation. The trouble is, the experience of making preserves is very specific to the present time because every fruit cooks differently. We'll touch on this more later.
We certainly found some recipe guidance misleading at the very beginning of our journey.
To inspire rather than leave to flounder, we've put together a few tips to make your experiments a success from the start of your jam-making journey.
How much to make?
Start small. It's easier to dispose of 6 inedible jars than 32. The latter can make you feel shamefully wasteful and so put off that you never want to try again.
You may have enthusiastically picked kilos of fruit at the local farm, but it's easy to put them into single kilo bags and stick them in the freezer.
In fact, it's very quick to make lots of small batches once you get into a rhythm. Large batches are far more difficult to control and more likely to fail. Start small.
Which fruit to jam first?
As mentioned, every fruit cooks differently. How it cooks affects how easy or difficult it is to jam. The majority of people that I speak to about forays into jam-making begin with strawberries which, unfortunately, are difficult. Strawberries have a high water content, which makes it very tricky to get the set right.
The fruit's water content, structure, seeds, skin-to-flesh ratio and how it gives up its juice all affect how easy it is to jam.
Now, raspberries! Raspberries are a good place to start. They almost jam with a look.
Blackberries may look structurally similar to raspberries, but the fruit's structure makes it more difficult to jam.
Here is a list from easy to difficult:
- Blueberries (just don't do it)
What pan to use?
Now this is where I think many people get mislead. You can buy preserving kits and the main constituent is a huge, deep pan. This is known as a Preserving Pan. The sheer size of it makes one expect to see it filled to the brim with fruit and sugar, enough for many tens of jars to be filled.
This is no place to begin.
Remember, start small.
A wide, shallow pan is a good place to start. You may not have a pan which fits that description exactly, but a pan that will allow for the fruit to have a greater surface area than depth while cooking will work well.
Cooking your fruit
Most fruit benefit from some fresh lemon juice to increase the acidity/PH level. Blackcurrants, damsons and gooseberries are fine without, as long as they're not too ripe.
Place your fruit in your pan and add lemon juice (a whole lemon works well for a 1kg batch).
On a medium heat, stir your fruit. You want your fruit to be thoroughly cooked and you want to lose some water from the fruit before you add your sugar.
Once you add the sugar (600g is a good place to start for a 1kg batch), the colour of the jam begins to change. With a bit of practice, you can cook your fruit and lose enough water that, once the sugar is added, all you have to do is bring it up to temperature, cook for a minute or two, and then pot.
Without sophisticated pectin, it's not possible to set your jam without 60% sugar. Unfortunately, this will affect the flavour of your jam. I would always advise to be happy with a soft set - even slightly runny. This way your jam will have a much better flavour, with fine and heady aromas of the fresh fruit.
Have fun and relax
Jam-making should be a therapeutic and enjoyable experience. Decide that you really want to do it first. Do it on your own. Have a bath and wash your hair. Feel relaxed. Cut out any distractions; no one's grandmother ever made jam while doing the laundry or feeding the kids. Revel in your alone time and then share your lovely jam with everyone. This way, you'll connect deeply with yourself and those around you.
If you would like to use our sophisticated pectin formula to make a wonderful low-sugar jam, plus step-by-step instructions from our very own Sky, you can purchase the jam-making kit by clicking here.
I'd like to leave you with this:
"There's something very comforting about the ritual of jam-making. It speaks of cellars filled with preserves; of neat rows of jars on pantry shelves. It speaks of winter mornings and bowls of chocolat au lait, with thick slices of good fresh bread and last year's peach jam, like a promise of sunshine at the darkest point of the year. It speaks of four stone walls, a roof, and of seasons that turn in the same place, in the same way, year after year, with sweet familiarity. It is the taste of home."
From Joanne Harris' Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé (p. 213)
Thanks for reading, folks.
Have fun with your jam-making. Let us know how you get on. Come to us pleading for help if it goes wrong. Come to us with beaming with excitement if it goes right. We're here for you!
|Best wishes, Sky, Kai & the England Preserves team|