Took a weekend off for good behaviour. Oh, and harvesting/blanching/freezing another 3.2kg of french beans. Going to be a green bean kind of winter menu this year! Meant to do this post on Monday – got distracted by making some peach and plum jam. Meant to do this post last night – Tuesday – got distracted by spending several hours caring for an exhausted egg bound hen.
But here! Now! My promised blog.
I made jam.
In June I made some half-hearted jam. It didn’t end well. I used the jam setting on the bread machine, didn’t follow a recipe properly, handled the clean jars carelessly. Frankly, I got what I deserved. Which was runny mouldy compote.
This, though. This is not like that. Here’s what I did properly this time.
This is how I made jam. If you make jam, and it is less than optimal for any reason, I’m not the bad person here. I’m not guaranteeing this is the best way to make jam. It might even be the worst way to make jam for all I know! But this is how I made jam, and I’m so excited about it I’m clogging up the internet with it.
Jam pail and a proper recipe
There was a kilo of overripe strawberries just about to go to waste. Not on my jammy watch.
So I got a jam pail. Apparently that’s the right term for the heatproof bucket with a very thick base I acquired. I popped down Wilkos and got it for about a tenner, brand new. It will be used for making toffee, and honeycomb, and is a great harvesting bucket for the garden too. I could carry a sick hen around in it. One could brain a zombie with it. I can guarantee you it won’t sit idle when I’m not making jam in it.
Jam sugar + the juice of a lemon
So I cut up that kilo of strawberries a bit and heated them up for a few minutes, then tossed in a whole kilo of jam sugar and the juice of a lemon.
Jam sugar. Yes, that’s a thing, apparently. What is it? It’s sugar with added pectin. What’s pectin, I hear you say? It’s science. The internet tries to tell me that it’s a structural heteropolysaccharide. Science, I tell you! Oh, and also a gelling agent. Pectin is the stuff that makes jam into jam, rather than being runny like compote.
And the juice of a lemon. Why? More pectin. And because the recipe said so.
Boil it, said the recipe. I was mildly anxious at this stage. How will I know when it’s boiling, I wondered. Should I go and fish out my sugar thermometer that I got for making honeycomb?
Didn’t need to. It looks like this when it’s boiling. Terrifying. Like looking in the maw of a great sugary strawberry volcano. It looks like I imagine the end times will.
Do stir it. Don’t splash.
I’m very proud that I didn’t burn or scald myself once throughout this whole process.
The jars. The funnel. The lids. The tongs. Everything went into a big stockpot full of boiling water and was kept stupidly hot throughout much of the jam making process. This is a big deal. It’s about keeping air and bugs out of the jam, because if you mess this bit up, your jam goes mouldy. And yes you can see big air bubbles in the jars, don’t worry, I topped up the water and got that all out.
Test for setting
So here are a few steps I didn’t take photos of.
Boil that jam until it is, well, jam. That means that when it is cool it will set.
How do you know it will set?
Here’s a clue.
I still don’t. Not 100%. Because this is my first jam and I’m not going to know for certain until I open the first jar up.
But. Here are the things to do that will help you guess if it will or if it won’t.
You need a cold plate and a clean spoon. Carefully spoon a bit of molten protojam out of the boiling churn and put it on the cold plate. Wait for one minute. Carefully stick your finger in it, or you can use the spoon if you’re still terrified of that heat. Push the blob across the plate a bit then remove your finger/spoon. If the blob just globs back to where it was, and is all runny, it’s not ready. If the blob just sits there and looks back at you, it should be done.
Turn off the heat and let it sit for ten minutes or so.
Skim the foam
Skim the foam off the top. The internet appears divided about this. I skimmed mine off. The foam is the bubbly white foam that rises to the top of the boiling glub in the jam pail. If you leave it in, it apparently looks ugly. Oh, and introduces air to your jam. Air is the enemy, remember? So no foam here. Skim that off with some clean spoons and wash it down the drain. Goodbye, foam!
I used tongs to move the jars out of the sterilisation water. I put them briefly upside down on a clean tea towel on a clean surface to drain and then – still using the tongs – turned them back the right way up. Hot glass is hot! Don’t touch it with your hands.
Those tongs? My best friend. Fished out the funnel and then (after sterilising it too) the ladle. I filled my jars up quite close to the top. Put a little wax paper disc on top. And the lid. Using lots of clean tea towels because EVERYTHING WAS VERY HOT.
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