|Strawberry conserve and gooseberry jam|
- Maslin pan: This is a large gradated pan with a spout on one side and a handle on the other, making pouring very easy. It also confines any sticky jam splashes to the pan.
- Jam funnel: Again, this avoids mess when pouring the jam into the jars.
- Large wooden spoon: For stirring the jam.
- Homebrew oxygen steriliser: For ease of sterilising the jam jars.
- Steam juicer: Extracts the juice from fruit without the need for topping and tailing (or removing currants from their strings, for example). Jelly making becomes a doddle without the need to strain the juices through muslin for hours.
- You haven't boiled the jam for long enough (or there is not enough pectin in the jam) and it won't set.
- You've boiled it far too long and it's gone rock solid.
|Gooseberry jelly, just filled into jars|
If you're finding the saucer or flake test difficult to judge (it is not very scientific) consider investing in a sugar thermometer. Then you can just wait until the jam temperature reaches 105C to 110C (though this also depends on the pectin content). I use the saucer test where you put a spoonful of jam on a chilled saucer and push it with your finger - if it wrinkles it's ready. However, this is not always clear cut and takes a bit of practice to judge. I always keep a few saucers in the freezer so that I can make jam spontaneously.
|Strawberry & rhubarb jam|
Make sure you use enough sugar. I like to use less sugar than in most commercial jams, but you have to use a certain ratio of sugar to fruit so that the jam will keep. Traditionally, this is 1:1, but it depends on the pectin content of the fruit.
My final tip is to work in small batches (1kg to 2kg of fruit). This makes everything easier.
My annual must-do jams and jellies are:
- Strawberry conserve (where you soak the strawberries in sugar for a day, then briefly boil before leaving them to infuse for another day before boiling them with some lemon juice - this really brings out the strawberry flavour)
- Strawberry & rhubarb jam
- Rhubarb & ginger jam
- Gooseberry & elderflower jam
- Bramble jelly
- Blackcurrant jelly
- Raspberry jelly