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Does anyone have any tips for a first time jam maker?

Discussion in 'Cookery' started by MayKasahara, Aug 23, 2011.

  1. MayKasahara

    MayKasahara New commenter

    We've just picked 2.5kg of plums from one of the trees in the garden (normally the birds and wasps get there first!) and I'm hoping to make some jam with them. My plan is to get some preserving sugar (I've been given some jam sugar but it says on the packet that it's the wrong kind for plums) and follow this recipe for the barely ripe plums. Any tips would be much appreciated!
  2. ljr

    ljr New commenter

    Once you've started making jam you will never want to buy it again. I use preserving sugar for making marmalade, I've not heard that jam sugar is wrong for plums. Stir in the sugar gradually, don't let the jam boil until the sugar is dissolved.The tip about the plates in the fridge is a good one for testing for setting point. I find that using a small jug for filling the jam jars is a good idea and if you can get one a jam funnel is well worth the investment. Make sure that your jars are perfectly clean, and hot otherwise they could crack. Put the wax disc on top immediately. It is perfectly OK to use the original lid to the jar as long as it is clean, you don't have to have the cellophane tops, but they do create a good seal, so I usually use the cellophane & then put the lid on top so that I can stack the jars. Have a sink full of hot soapy water & as soon as a pan or utensil is finished with put it in the water - it makes clearing up so much easier than having to scrape dried, set jam from pans. Design some home made labels on the computer - there are plum pics on clip art. Have fun!
  3. Buy a proper preserving pan and buy the very best you can afford. Mine cost - gulp - £50 nearly 20 years ago from JL but it has been worth every penny. Nothing sticks to the bottom and it is a doddle to clean.
  4. MayKasahara

    MayKasahara New commenter

    Thank you for your replies! I'm going to go and get the sugar now and try making the jam later, I'll have a look for a preserving pan as well.
  5. Wotworklifebalance

    Wotworklifebalance New commenter

    I wash my jars thoroughly (they have usually been gathering dust in the pantry since they were emptied) but don't dry them. I then put the jars into the oven on a low heat while I am making the jam, this means that the jars are warm and won't (as mentioned by some-one else) crack. If I am reusing lids I put them all in a heat-proof jug and pour boiling water on to sterilise them before I start making the jam. I leave the lids to cool in the water and just take them out of the water, give them a good shake and put them on the jar. As the jars and jam cool everything contracts making the buttons sink and giving a good airtight seal to keep out the mould spores.

    Always make small batches of jam and marmalade - even if it means making 2 batches. It can be really difficult to reduce the fruit sufficiently with larger batches and once the sugar is added you have to boil for longer to reach setting point. The longer your jam is cooked for the more the sugar caramelises giving the jam a browner colour - this is really important with red berry jams such as raspberry which look a bit yucky if they are brown - and a sickly flavour.

    You might need to wrap a tea towel around your hand as the jam reaches setting point as it sometimes spits giving you a painful burn. My mother-in-law gave me an ENORMOUS jam making wooden spoon (now stained a deep red colour at the bottom) which I think came from Lakeland which a really good for stirring my preserving pan. As other people have said a preserving pan makes reducing the water content of the fruit much easier and a jam funnel makes getting the jam into the jars easier.

    Remember to turn your jam pot off when you are testing the set on a plate otherwise the jam keeps on jamming and the setting point may be reached without you realising.

    If the worst comes to the worst and you pot up too soon all is not lost. You can tip all of the jam out and boil again; this does waste a lot of jam, is messy and can affect the colour and flavour or you can just keep the jam in the fridge (another good reason for not making too much as you would need a lot of fridge space!) and will need to be eaten more quickly.

    My best tip is that before you make your jam ensure that you have a loaf of really good bread and decent butter to hand as there is nothing in the world which is quite as nice as fresh bread, butter and slightly warm jam.

  6. Maslin pan
    Long handled wooden spoon x 2, 1 for jam 1 for pickles, you don't want the vinegar to contaminate the jam and you need the long handles to save you getting burned.
    A sugar thermometer, saves a lot of guess work getting to the set point
    Lots of jars and lids and a dishwasher, easy to clean and sterilise all in one go! Save every one you use and ask friends/Freegle for more.
    You might want to buy a strainer so you can make jellies, £12 and dead easy to clean/use.
    A funnel isn't absolutely necessary, you can pour from a plastic jug with a decent spout - glass ones can get very hot and heavy!
    Lemons - if you need help with setting - I tend not to use pectin or sugar jam!
    Websites for easy instructions and explanations of words like 'set point'.
    or a book by Pam the Jam.....Pam Corbin!
    A good knowledge of farm shops and seasonality - you will need to wait for gluts of specific fruit/veg or you could spend an absolute fortune!

    And most of all a lot of restraint or you will need to make a lot of new friends - it gets addictive!
    Have fun [​IMG]

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