The jam making season is in full swing. The orchard, garden and hedgerows are providing an abundance of fruits, all ready to be preserved. To make the best jam you need to pick the fruit when it is only just ripe and in perfect condition. Wash it and remove any stalks and cores. Some fruits have very little pectin, the enzyme responsible for making the jam set. This is easily remedied by adding a chopped apple or the soaked rind of a lemon to your recipe, both being rich in pectin (I’m making plum jam here, which is very rich in pectin, and sets easily.)
The Basic Method
- Place the prepared fruit in a pan, with a tiny amount of water if necessary.
- Bring it to the boil and simmer until the fruit is soft.
- Stir in the sugar until it has dissolved.
- The jam should then be heated to a rolling boil – this means it is boiling so hard, it spits.
- Continue boiling, stirring only occasionally, until the setting point is reached on a sugar thermometer. To test for set without a sugar thermometer, spoon a little jam onto a cold saucer. Put the saucer in the fridge for a minute, take it out and push the jam with your fingertip. If the jam wrinkles, setting point is reached.
- Keep testing till you get to setting point.
- Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to stand for a few minutes.
- Remove any scum that has formed on the surface, together with any fruit stones. A knob of butter added at this time will help to eliminate any scum that remains and add a shine to the jam, but this is optional.
- Stir once and pour the jam into warmed, sterilised jars (warming is necessary, as cold jars are likely to shatter).
- Cover the surface of the jam with a waxed disc and put on the lid firmly. If lids are not available, cellophane covers can be used and held in place with an elastic band.
The only thing that can go wrong is missing the setting point – if you overcook the jam it will go dark and the flavour will be spoiled. If you undercook the jam it will be too runny and may even start to ferment with keeping. Keep testing as it is cooking!
This is my plum jam recipe:
6 lb plums
1 ½ pints water
6 lb sugar
Wash the plums, simmer for around 30 minutes with the water. Add the sugar and boil until setting point is reached. This will yield around 10 lb of jam.
© Anna Franklin August 2020