Making Jam is not difficult if you remember two important things. One, there are a lot of names for jam and they all refer to slightly different consistencies and styles and there is nothing to stop you changing the name of your preserve to match the result.
For instance, a conserve has a looser set and larger pieces of fruit than a jam while a fruit cheese is so stiff that you can pretty much cut it out of the jar and slice it with a knife.
The second thing to remember is to watch it all the time. The time difference between lovely and burnt can be very short indeed. If you need to answer the phone then turn off the heat.
Different fruit needs to be prepared in different ways. Sugar not only acts to preserve the fruit but it also affects the consistency of your fruit. By altering when you add the sugar, you change the consistency of the fruit.
Very soft fruit like stawberries will disintegrate completely on boiling. So the sugar is poured over the fruit and left to sit overnight. The sugar draws out moisture and helps the fruit keep its shape while cooking.
Fruit with thicker skins like plums need to be stewed slowly in a small amount of water first. Only when the fruit is soft can you add the sugar. if you put it in at the beginning as you would for soft beries then you will get lots of hard skin pieces in the finished preserve.
Use fruit at a range of ripeness, as fruit gets more ripe, it gets sweeter but looses its pectin, the chemical that sets the jelly. I look for fruit that is just ripe with a few older bits (but never off) and a few slightly underripe bits.
Drop a small amount of jam onto a cold saucer. Wait a few seconds and then gently push it with your fingernail. If the surface wrinkles then it is set. It is a good idea to take your pan off the ehat while you test. At this point your jam should be nerly cooked and there is only a few seconds between perfect jam (is there any such thing? :-)) and disaster.
Please note, even after making many many batches of jam over the years, I still find myself looking closely and wandering if I really saw a wrinkle or just a trick of he light. This really is a case of practice.
Do take heart though, if the jam doesn't set properly, put the jars in the freezer to prevent mould and jsut use them up quickly once opened. They will make a great filling for a hot sponge pudding.
More to follow
i first came accross this way of making jam in Omsk in Russia. Their lovely summers grow some amazing fruit.
This is a way of using fruit quickly, it will not preserve your fruit and will only keep for a few days in the fridge. That said, it tastes much better served at room temperature or even stood in the sunshine to warm naturally.
Choosing berries. This work best with soft fruit, I use raspberries and blackberries. The Russian one was made with blackcurrant but the ones I grow here in Surrey have a skins that feel tough if not cooked.
Basically weigh out 250g of berries.
Tip over 50g of icing sugar.
Shuffle the bowl and bit to shake them together.
Leave on a sunny windowsill or on the side for at least 2 hours.
You will see the fruit juices start to run.
Mash up with a fork and you are done.
This can be quite runny but still goes well on toast, scones and in a cake.
Wash and check 1lb or 500g of ripe blackcurrants or plums.
(if using plums then stone large ones. Small ones like mirabelle are fiddly to stone so fish out the stones once they are stewed. You could use a sieve to help but don't strain the fruit or else you get jelly. Jelly is nice but this recipe states the correct sugar for jam.)
Put in a large suacepan with a small amount of water (100ml is probably enough).
Heat very slowly to allow the fruit to stew. Keep checking and if it looks dry add a bit more water. Don't worry if you add too much water, it will just take the jam longer to boil to a setting point.
When fruit is good and soft add 1lb or 500g of sugar.
Heat gently and stir. It is very important that it does not boil until all of the sugar has dissolved. If the sugar is not dissolving add a little more water.
Once the sugar is dissolved, turn up the heat and bring it to a rapid boil.
After 5 minutes, test for a set.
Once setting point is reached, put in hot sterilised jars and store until cool.
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