Oh boy, how much time has flown by. Perhaps I need to fill in the gaps between my last post and now.
Back at the beginning of 2018, I was embarking on my sourdough journey. Like many resolutions at that time of year, it was terribly short-lived. My promisingly active sourdough starter died because I forgot to feed it, and the fancy organic flour bred an infestation of flour mites. That resulted in a lot of screaming, a kitchen deep clean and a newly acquired aversion to bread-making.
Then I got married! A had popped the question months earlier, when I was wrist-deep in rubbing butter into flour for a crumble, so very romantically I had to run off and wash my hands before I could say yes and try on my shiny new ring. The wedding was the happiest, happiest day. My friend J pulled out all the stops and produced quite possibly the most beautiful wedding cake, which tasted like all the best birthday cakes ever rolled into one.
Then onto 2019! We’ve done a heck of a lot of travelling, moved back to the city, and along the way we are now expecting mini A to make an appearance any time soon! I can’t believe how much has happened – it’s been like a crazy whirlwind.
So, perhaps this has been a way of grounding myself throughout the busy events of 2019 or it’s nesting, but I have developed an obsession with making jam.
I first tried my hand at a batch of raspberry jam from some frozen berries, then a rhubarb and vanilla jam way way back in forced rhubarb season, and both had turned out a lot tastier than I had expected them to. Plus, rhubarb and vanilla isn’t really a jam combination you can buy easily in the shops, so it felt extremely satisfying to making something a bit more exotic that you couldn’t buy.
Now the fruits of late summer and autumn are coming through, I have been on an absolute roll. My cupboards are full of jam. Strawberry, blackberry, plum. It’s so satisfying to see the rows of jars, in a myriad of glistening colours from deep ruby to the darkest purple.
Sadly, there is a bit of a lack of photos from the jam-making process, but I will try and take some next time. For now, I have completely run out of jars!
My Jam Top Tips
With low pectin fruits e.g. strawberries and rhubarb, it is easier to get a good set with jam sugar, or using sugar with additional powdered pectin.
High pectin fruits e.g. raspberries and plums don’t seem to require the additional pectin for a good set.
Of note, slightly upripe fruit has a higher pectin content than overripe fruit. So actually jam making is an incredibly good way of making use of the sour ‘uns that aren’t so palatable eaten raw.
Adding lemon pips/peel/juice to jam is a good way to increase the pectin content. Bind the pips and peel into a muslin cloth so it can be easily removed.
Generally, I tend to use a ratio of 5:4 of fruit: sugar.
For most fruits, the classic 1:1 ratio produces a jam that is usually too sweet. The exception to this rule is if you are using something incredibly sour like rhubarb, which cuts beautifully through the sugar.
You can play around with the ratios, but careful not to reduce the sugar content too much either as this will affect the preserving qualities of the jam and its ability to set well.
3. Prepping the fruit
I find with some fruits e.g. strawberries, rhubarb or raspberries, macerating overnight with the sugar works well, as it helps the sugar to dissolve and keeps the fruit whole in bigger chunks.
Stewing the fruit before adding the jam e.g. with plums, is a good way of breaking tougher fruits down into pulp so you aren’t left with fruit chunks floating around in a sugar syrup.
If you want to make a seedless jam, a good method is to stew the fruit then strain off the seeds before proceeding to the jam-making stage. Lay a muslin cloth inside a sieve, tip the fruit mixture in, and allow the juice to drip through overnight.
You need a big deep pan for jam making as the mixture rises a lot during the boiling process. A sugar thermometer is not essential, but can be helpful for letting you know what stage of the jam-making process you’re at.
Initially, heat the fruit and sugar over a lowish temperature until the sugar is completely dissolved, then bring to a rolling boil.
5. Testing for readiness
Have a plate on standby in the freezer for testing the consistency of your jam.
When the jam is nearing readiness, you should be able to note the following:
- rolling boil will start to calm down a little
- mixture starts to thicken
- the mixture drips instead of pouring from the spoon
To test, take the jam off the heat, and spoon a little bit onto your frozen plate. Wait 30 seconds, then push the jam with a finger to see if it wrinkles. If it does, it is ready. If not, put the jam back on the heat for another minute, then test again. Remember you can always boil it bit more, but overboiled jam cannot be rescued!
Skim off any scum on the surface of the jam with a large metal spoon – this is air introduced to the mixture during boiling. If there is still some scum you can add a small knob of butter to dissolve it.
Let the jam settle for 10 minutes, then pour into clean glass jars. Screw the lids on tightly, invert the jars once to sterilise the remaining airspace then set upright. Allow to cool and set at room temperature.