Sweet preserves are made by first slowly cooking fruit until soft. Sugar is then added and the fruit is boiled rapidly until setting point is reached. Jams and jellies are made in a preserving pan which is a wide , deep pan with sloping sides that allows for rapid boiling and evaporation. It’s heavy base prevents sticking, aluminium and stainless steel pans are the most practical. A large heavy based sauce-pan may be used but never fill more than halfway.
- Choose ripe but firm fruits, under ripe fruit lacks flavour, in overripe fruit the pectin content will be diminished.
- Cut away any damaged parts and discard overripe fruits, particularly soft fruits and berries which usually contain mould. Wash fruits quickly in cold running water. Raspberries , blackberries and strawberries however will retain too much moisture if washed and so should be picked over for impurities.
- Pectin also reacts with the sugar to obtain a good set. Sugar not only preserves the fruit but also helps it to keep it’s colour. Too much sugar will prevent setting and cause crystallization and too little will cause fermentation of the jam. High pectin fruits will take more sugar and thus yield more jam or jelly than low pectin fruits. Granulated sugar is the most economical sugar to use. Brown sugar produces more scum than white sugars, but use it whenever a darker colour is wished. For different flavours, one quarter of the sugar may be replaced by syrups such as honey . Warming the sugar in a low oven shortens cooking time and improves fruit colour, spread the sugar in a roasting tin or baking tray and then place in the oven .
Let’s then dwell a little bit on how to make jam . Read on below :
To make jam , fruit should be trimmed of stalks , stems and cores. Stones however may be left in as they will float to the top of the pan after the fruit is boiled. Chop the fruit or leave whole according to size. Grease the pan with a buttered paper before adding fruit as this helps to prevent sticking. Whole spices such as ginger, cloves and cinnamon may be tied in a muslin bag and added to the pan. Cook soft fruits in their own juice. For hard fruits which need longer cooking, water is added, it should reduce by at least one – third during cooking. Stir fruit occassionally to prevent sticking. Once it has softened, warmed sugar is added and gently stirred over low heat until dissolved. The fruit and sugar are then boiled rapidly for 10 – 15 minutes or until setting point is reached. Near the end of boiling, add a knob of butter to the pan to help disperse the form.
Test for setting point
- Clip the sugar thermometer to the side of the pan before boiling, read it at eye level. It will register 105 C when setting point has been reached.
- First remove pan from heat. Spoon 1 teaspoon jam on to chilled saucer and allow to cool, then push it with your finger – the jam should wrinkle and separate. If not, reboil jam for 1 -2 minutes then test again. Skim off scum and stones if any, with a slotted spoon. Leave to cool slightly, about 15 minutes for whole fruit jam so that the fruit has time to settle. Stir the jam once more before potting.
Potting and storing :
- Jam and jelly must be tightly sealed in clean jars or the preserves will grow mould. Preserving jars must have screw top lids or glass lids with rubber rings and spring – clip closures. The jars should be very clean and completely dry. Sterilizing is not essential, but is an extra precaution to prevent mould growth. Warm the jars to prevent cracking when the hot jam is poured into them.Place on oven shelves in a 110 C oven while cooking the fruit.
In my next article l will be dwelling on the making of jelly at home, in your own kitchen.
NB : Recipe taken from the Nice & Easy Cookbook.
Good health to you