Making jam may not seem like the most nutritionally dense activity, but as a new jam lover I felt that it was an appropriate first post! I’m usually much more of a tahini and honey or nut spread kinda girl, but after making a batch of mouthwatering strawberry and blueberry jam for christmas presents, I am still enjoying the fruits of my labour – ha! Home-made jam on some sort of dense sourdough with butter has served as a delightful change – it makes me feel all grown up and lady-like!
Preserving is such a wonderful way to use ripe fruit, changing its form into something you can enjoy for months. Traditionally we have used this process of slowing the decay of food so that it was available even when the fruit was out of season. Supermarkets and the like have severed this connection with seasonal eating by making anything available year-round, leading us to pay more and sacrifice taste and quality. Reconnecting with seasonal eating is so important not only for taste and quality, but it costs less. For more info on which fruits and vegetables are in season, click here.
Home-made jam is unbelievably delicious, and inexpensive to make.
There are loads of recipes around, but I love Jude Blereau’s universal jam recipe from Coming Home to Eat. It is a low sugar jam recipe that gives such an amazing result, my mouth is watering as I write this!
Most jam recipes use equal quantities of sugar and fruit by weight. You really don’t need this much sugar, but by reducing the sugar content you will get a jam that is less firm, or has a softer ‘set’ than commercial types. I like this though.
Also note that if you are making jam with low pectin and low acid fruits (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, rhubarb, pears, peaches or apricots) adding lemon or including some unripe fruit in your mix will help boost acidity and acid, and will help to set your jam.
Jude says take a minute to choose a wide, shallow pot as it encourages evaporation and reduction, and cooks the jam more quickly. I used my cast iron fry pan and it worked perfectly. Your pot should not be more than two thirds full of fruit.
Also, sterilise your jars before you fill them. You can do this by boiling them in water for 10 minutes, along with tongs, a ladel and a funnel. Be very careful getting them out. Use the tongs and transfer the jars to an oven tray to keep on low heat in the oven as adding hot jam to cold jars will cause them to crack.
Universal jam recipe
(Gluten free / dairy free / vegan)
4kg of fruit will yield about 3.5kg or 12 cups of jam
Make sure you have enough jars for your jam before you start!
4kg fruit (I used about 800 grams as it was what I had and just adjusted the measurements of sugar and lemon to match. I chose strawberries and blueberries – yum!)
1.2kg raw sugar
1 medium sized lemon, skin on, cut into 8 bits
Sterilize jars and place on a baking tray to keep warm in the oven.
Allow the sugar to dissolve over very low heat – this takes about 15 minutes or longer depending on the size of your pot.
Once the sugar is visibly staring to dissolve, increase the heat slightly until you see a gently bubbling. Stir frequently. Continue to cook for 15 minutes (or longer if using a deeper pot)- the juices will have weeped out from the fruit therefore increasing the amount of liquid in the pos. Enjoy the delicious smell of your cooking fruit!
Increase the heat to a high boil until ‘set’ is achieved. Stir frequently to check the feel of the jam, and to make sure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pot. As the jam reduces, it will thicken. This stage should take about 30 minutes, but the deeper your pot, the longer it will take as there is less surface area for the jam to reduce. If you are making a smaller amount of jam, it should take less time.
‘Set’ for low sugar jams can be tested by the appearance and feel of your jam, cook until it is fairly thick. You can take a small amount and chill on a saucer to check the consistency. When cool, run your fingers through the middle – you want to see a clean line of plate underneath. Any juices that flow into the line should look like lovely liquid jam and not all watery, it should have some ‘body’.
As soon as the jam is ready, ladle the warm jam through the funnel, into the warm jars. Seal the lids tightly, then leave to sit until totally cool. There should be a dent in the middle of the lid – if not, store the jam in the fridge and use straight away.
Note: I thought I wouldn’t need the funnel, not a great idea…
So there you have a fabulous, super delicious jam to use as you wish or give as delightful gifts.
How cute is that!