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Jam making in action with jam being spooned into jam jar

How to Make Jam: a Beginner's Guide

Savour the taste of seasonal fruits with jars-full of sticky goodness.

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Making your own jam is a wonderful way to savour the taste of seasonal fruits. Easy once you get the hang of it, jam making rewards with jars-full of sticky goodness for extra delicious morning toast.

There are heaps of recipes, methods, tips and techniques for all kinds of amazing jam making. But it’s really not that tricky. If you’re just starting off, you can keep it simple with our beginner’s guide…

 

What ingredients do I need to make jam?

  • Fresh seasonal fruit – the fresher the fruit, the tastier your jam. Choose your favourite fruits in season for the most delicious results – or freeze fruit for future jam making. You can use berries, oranges, apples, pears or even more exotic pineapple and passionfruit.
  • Sugar – and not just for sweetness. Sugar works hard with the fruit acids to create the jelly texture of jam. It also preserves the colour and freshness of the fruit so you can enjoy your jams for longer. Granulated or preserving sugars are best for thickening jam.

 

What jam making equipment do I need?

Jam making equipment for preserving jam

  • Maslin Pan – the trick to jam making is timing and patience. It requires reducing the water in the fruit and helping it to thicken with the sugar, without burning or over-boiling the mixture. A jam pan with a wide diameter and even heat distribution is key to making sure your jam cooks through but doesn’t scorch. The larger cooling surface lets heat and water evaporate more easily for a yummy, gooey result.
  • Jam thermometerwhen your jam reaches setting point, it’s ready. Take the guesswork out of it with a preserving thermometer.
  • Jam Jars – for the fun hoorah, storing your delicious jams. Choose jars with an integrated rubber ring - an air-tight tight seal is needed to preserve the flavours and freshness.

How do you make jam?

Maslin pan for jam making boiling jam

If it’s your first time making jam, we recommend choosing raspberries - raspberry jam is one of the quickest and easiest to set as the fruit is high in the natural jelling substance, pectin. Catch raspberries beautifully in season from July through to September.  

1. Sterilise your jam jars – get your jars ready to go. Sterilising is super important to make sure all bacteria, yeasts, funghi and organisms are removed. You don’t want any nasties spoiling the fruits of your labour. Use one of these methods to sterilise:

  • In the dishwasher on the maximum temperature setting.
  • Wash the jam jars and lids in hot soapy water then place the jars in the oven at 140°C for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the lids in a saucepan of water and boil for 20 minutes. (We also recommend replacing your jam jar lids after two to three uses - replacement lids can be purchased online).

Whichever method you choose, make sure your jam jars are still warm and bone dry when you’re ready to fill them.

2. Prepare your fruit – Wash your fruit and remove any stalks or leaves. Leave to drain, making sure it’s dry before cooking.

3. Get your setting tester ready – place a saucer in your fridge…you’ll need this later.

4. Start making jam – add equal quantities of fruit and sugar to your maslin pan, over a very low heat. Watch carefully and stir every so often until the sugar has dissolved. Keep an eye to make sure the sugar doesn’t stick to the pan and turn the heat down further if needed.

5. Get your jam set - once the sugar has dissolved, bring the mixture to a rapid, rolling boil and cook until the jam reaches its setting point – use a preserving thermometer to check (105°C (220°F) is the magic number). You’ll notice the jam will start to thicken and boil more slowly as it gets there.

6. Double check it’s set – here’s where your saucer comes in handy. Spoon a little jam onto the saucer and leave to cool for a few minutes. Then push your finger into it. If it wrinkles, it’s ready. If not, cook for a few minutes more then try again.

7. Store - when your jam is ready, spoon it into your warm jars while it’s still hot. Twist the lids on tight. The jam will thicken as it cools. Gorgeous preserves, complete.

 

How long does homemade jam last?

Store it in a cool, dry cupboard and your jam will taste amazing for up to 6 months.

 

Top tips for making jam delicious

Jam being spooned into jam jar

Keep it simple or try out a few extra tricks – it’s up to you. Homemade jam is a delight either way.

Choose fruits that are high in pectin, or slightly under-ripe

Pectin is a naturally occurring jelling substance found in many fruits including blackcurrants, cranberries, oranges, lemons and plums. Slightly under-ripe fruit also develops pectin as the fruit ripens. Choose high pectin fruits or slightly under-ripe for the thickest and jelliest jam making. Here’s a great guide to fruits and pectin.

Thicken low pectin fruits with homemade pectin

If your favourite fruit is low in pectin, don’t be disheartened. The secret here is a long, slow boil to drive the moisture out of the fruit – easy with a maslin pan. You can also use jam sugar or make your own pectin using lemon seeds. Squeeze out the seeds of a lemon using a juicer and place them in a small bowl of water in the fridge. After a few hours, remove the seeds and use the pectin in your jam mix.

Heat the sugar before adding to the fruit

Jam made faster is fresher and even more delicious. Heat the sugar for around 15 minutes in the oven, on a moderate temperature, before adding to the fruit in your maslin pan. ­This will help it dissolve even more quickly into the fruit, for a faster thickening.

Soften the fruit before adding the sugar

Sugar has a hardening effect on fruit, so it can be better to soften your fruit on a lower heat, before it’s added – this is something to try with fruits that have thicker skins, such as blackcurrants and gooseberries.

 

Learn how to make jam the easy way with these top tips and all the jam making equipment to make sure your jam tastes amazing.

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