Homemade Fruit Jams and Jellies: A How-To Guide
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Published by TOP4 Team
Nothing beats homemade fruit jams and jellies – and making them is fairly simple. Buy fruit and vegetables when they’re plentiful, saving money and restoring a traditional delight to your table.
Although all fruits contain natural pectin, the trick for getting a jam or jelly to gel lies in striking the proper balance between acids and pectin – or you can buy natural pectin and add it as per the maker’s instructions. Cleanliness is also crucial when processing fruit. Even the tiniest bit of decay in the fruit can make preserves go mouldy.
- Aside from chopping board and knife, you need a set of weighing scales, preserving pan or large saucepan, wooden spoon, skimmer or slotted metal spoon, and glass jars with lids.
- Copper pans are excellent heat conductors but they react with acids, so a stainless-steel pan is better.
- A wide jam funnel and ladle makes it easier to pour jams and jellies into jars.
Fruits to use
Nearly all fruits are good for making jams and jellies.
- Apples, redcurrants and citrus fruits are high in pectin and so gel quickly. You can add plain granulated sugar when using them.
- Apricots, raspberries, blackcurrants, plums, nectarines and peaches have a moderate amount of pectin, so a little lemon juice helps them to gel.
- Pineapples, pears, strawberries, rhubarb, cherries, marrows and grapes have a low pectin content. Add the juice of a lemon to these fruits, combine them with other fruits that are high in pectin or use jam-setting or preserving sugar containing pectin.
Add one part jam-setting sugar (a mix of sugar, pectin and citric acid) to two parts fruit. Sterilise pre-washed jars and lids in boiling water for 10 minutes and dry in an oven at 100℃.
1. Wash, clean and chop or crush the fruit, weigh it and put it in a large, thick-based saucepan, so that the contents won’t stick while cooking or boil over.
2. Simmer harder fruits such as pineapples, pears and apples in a shallow pan with a little water until soft before crushing.
3. Stir in a little lemon juice to preserve the bright colour of the fruit.
4. Add jam-setting sugar to the fruit, stir well and wait a few minutes while the fruits draw out some juice.
5. Bring the contents to the boil, stirring constantly. Make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan and burns. Add a small knob of butter to the fruit mixture to ensure it doesn’t boil over.
6. Simmer the contents for 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly, and use a skimmer to scoop off the foam.
7. Do the gel test (see below). Depending on the result, either remove the pan from the burner or, if it’s too runny, cook for a few more minutes and retest.
8. Pour jam immediately into hot, sterilised jars, wipe any split jam from the rim and seal them securely.
- Instead of fruit, use marrows, pumpkins, carrots and tomatoes to make delicious jams and chutneys.
- Rich spices such as ginger, vanilla and cardamom can add a unique flavour to jams.
1. To obtain the fruit juice necessary for a jelly, add cleaned, chopped or crushed fruit into a saucepan with a little jam-setting sugar to draw out the juice. There’s no need to remove berry stalks, apply cores or skins.
2. Bring the mixture to the boil and simmer until all the fruit floats to the top.
3. Pour the fruit mixture and its liquid into a very fine strainer and collect the juices in a bowl. Leave overnight. Don’t squeeze out the juice or the jelly will be cloudy.
4. Boil the juice with an equal amount of jam-setting sugar for 5-10 minutes (2502g sugar for 250ml juice).
5. After the gel test (see below), pour into hot, sterilised jars and seal.
- You can increase the amount of juice by returning the mixture to the pan after straining, covering it with water, simmering and straining it again.
- Fresh herbs such as mint or lemon balm can add a distinct flavour to jellies, especially apple jelly.
THE GEL TEST
1. Put a teaspoonful of the boiling fruit mixture onto a plate you’ve cooled in the freezer.
2. Let the sample cool down by placing it briefly in the fridge.
3. If it congeals and no water forms around it, then the jam or jelly is ready to put in jars. If you have a sugar thermometer, the mixture should reach 103℃.
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