Jams and preserves

A jam session!

Making jam is really quite easy and fun! Let me show you how you can make delicious jam at home.

Jam making is essentially equivalent to candying: you are boiling fruit in sugar until it enough water has evaporated and the mixture has turned into a thick syrup. All you need are 4 basic ingredients: fruit, sugar, acid and jelling agent. Plus time.

Ingredients

JamIngredients1

This is what use for my basic jams:

  • 1 kg of fruit
  • 750 g sugar. I don’t like my jam to be excessively sweet and reduce the about of sugar from the standard 1 kg of sugar per 1 kg of fruit to 750 g
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 apples, cut in chucks with skin, core etc., wrapped in a cheese cloth and tied. Apples are naturally high in pectin and I use them as a substitute for pectin; read my note #1 below.

The above proportions are for 1 kg of fruit. Depending on the water and pectin content of the fruit you use, this will yield anywhere between 1 litre and ≤ 500 ml of jam. If you want to make more jam you simply multiply the ingredients by the number of fruit kilos you use.

Tools

JamTools

Tested, used and recommended:

  • a large non-reactive pot. The size is up to you, I am using a big-ass 22 L (6 gallon) pot because I make large batches that would suffice for a number of nuclear holocausts
  • canning accessories are very handy when dealing with boil liquids. I have Startfit canning funnel, jar lifter and lid lifter and I am quite happy with them. You can buy this set at Canadian Tire or Amazon. I also have a canning rack (you can get it at Canadian Tire or Amazon). Please read note #2 on best cleaning and use methods. I found all of the above extremely useful as they have help me stay safe through out the jamming process.
  • a large spoon for mixing jam. Mine is plastic
  • a thermometer. I highly recommend using a digital thermometer but you can manage without it
  • lots of frozen spoons and frozen plates. They are particularly helpful when you don’t have a thermometer and are used to track your jam consistency through the boiling process
  • jars with lids. Sterilised in boiling water; read at the end about the sterilising process

Procedure

Jam making can take forever and turn into a torture if you are not organised. The most important thing when making jam is to stay organised and prepared. This really helps to cut down on the time requirement and makes the whole process much more enjoyable. I set up my equipment and measure out ingredients the night before and start early in the morning. By the early afternoon I am finished and bursting with pride!

I cannot give you time approximation for each step because it depends on too many factors. Instead, I am describing each step and providing guidelines you can use. Keep in mind that making jam does not have to occur in one session. You can split the boiling process over a couple days.

  1. Combine fruit with sugar and lemon juice. When dealing with large quantities of fruit split them between bowls for easier management.
  2. Transfer your fruit into the pot adding the apples and begin heating.
  3. Bring to a boil. Remember to mix the jam frequently to prevent it from burning. The jam will boil quite vigorously at first and then slow down to a disturbing swamp-like gurgling. You will boil until the mixtures reaches appropriate consistency. The temperature at which this happens is critical, please see my note #3 on appropriate temperature and how to calculate it. In my case 105°C/221°F. It might take a while to heat your jam to the appropriate temperature so you might as well entertain yourself while waiting.
  4. Keep mixing and checking temperature throughout the movie. The mixture is very hot/boiling and can burn you skin, so be careful!
  5. Spoon out any foam that will form on the surface. We don’t want that in the jam, but is makes a great treat while working hard 😉
  6. Once the mixtures reaches the appropriate temperature (again, 105°C/221°F in my case) remove it from heat and cool for 5-10 min.
    • If you don’t have a thermometer use frozen plates or spoons to check your jam’s consistency. Frozen plates: spoon some jam on the plate and let sit for 30 seconds; your jam is ready when a skin forms on your jam (poke it with your finger) and when the jam has soft gel consistency that movers only slightly (tilt your plate to the side). Frozen spoons: spoon some jam on a frozen spoon and tilt it so that the jam drips down; the jam is ready when it forms a sheet as it slides off the spoon. Discrete drops are a sign of unfinished boiling process.
  7. Transfer your jam into the sterilised jars using the canning funnel and filling 1/4 inch below the rim. Place the sterilised lids using the lid lifter. Twist the lids tight
  8. Place a canning rack in a pot of water. Make sure the water level is at least 2 – 3 cm (3/4-1″) above the jars. Bring to a boil.
  9. Once the water reaches boiling temperature, fit your jar in the pot and boil for appropriate time (read my note #4 below about the appropriate time in the notes). For me, it is 5 minutes.
  10. Remove the jars from the water with a jar lifter and let them cool. It is best to NOT disturb them (No touching!) for 24 hours.

Jar sterilising process

You will need: a large pot, jars and a canning rack.

  • Place the canning rack in the pot, the put your jars in. Fill the pot with water such that it covers the jars. Bring to boil and boil for 15 minutes. Using the jar lifter and lid lifer, drain and remove your jars and lids. Set aside.
  • NOTE: do not sterilise your lids in boiling water as it may damage the seal and compromise the longevity of your preserves. Instead, wash them with soap and rinse in very hot water before use.

I sterilise my jars shortly before my jam is ready or when I’m done jamming altogether.

Helpful notes

  1. Fruit vary in the amount of natural pectin they contain. This fact dictates how much (if at all) any jelling agent is necessary. For example, strawberries and blueberries are naturally very low in pectin and therefore a jelling agent must be added. On the other hand, black currants are super high in pectin and do not require an addition of a jelling agent.
  2. Utensils: wash everything with warm water and soap before use. In addition, rinse all your tools with very hot water immediately before they come into contact with jam or jars.
  3. The temperature target for jam boiling changes according to the elevation e.i. how high above the sea level you live/make the jam at. The temperature must be adjusted accordingly. For every additional 1000 meters above the sea level you must subtract 6.6°C from the original temperature of 105°C. Similarly, for every additional 1000 feet above the sea level you must subtract 2°F for the original 221°F.
  4. Temperature for processing jar of jam in boiling water increases with elevation:
  • 5 minutes for altitudes between 300-900 m (1000-3000 feet)
  • 10 minutes for altitudes between 900-1800 m (3000-6000 feet)
  • 15 minutes for altitudes between 1800-2400 m (6000-8000 feet)
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