Tuesday, 1 September 2015

We're Jammin'

In the immortal words of the late and uber- great Bob Marley, today “we’re jammin’!”

As promised a couple of weeks ago, today we are talking jam. In our garden there are 18 different fruit producing plants and I make either jam or jelly from all of them. We have a tiny section, but we have slowly replaced all the ornamentals the house came with, with food-producing plants.

I know not everyone is that committed, but think about the money you can save if you can grow and apple, an orange and some berries; three plants which will provide lots of good food and nutrition – and are really easy to grow.

Jam is pretty quick, easy and inexpensive to make. It is a wonderful gift to give to others because you made it. I collect jars for my jam all through the year; if you want to recycle jars it is important that you do not force the lids open the first time you use them, since that will stop them from ever sealing again. If you like a jar that has a forced lid, then use a cellophane jam lid too, to make sure you keep the jam in and the bugs out.

There are some simple rules for making good jam. The first one is the most important – pectin. The riper the fruit, the lower the pectin. I have taught my family when we pick fruit for jam that we need to make sure around a third of the fruit is not quite ripe. Over ripe fruit can also ferment in the jar, so avoid that, too. If we only have perfectly ripe fruit, then I will add in a green apple or the juice of a lemon for every 500gms of fruit; that generally gives enough pectin to allow the jam to set. It is a good idea to add lemon juice to your jam even if you have enough pectin since the acid will improve the colour and flavour of your jam.

Jam is basically fruit and sugar and the ratio is pretty much the same for all of fruits: for every 1kg of fruit you add 750gms of sugar. I have been playing around with using glucose instead of white table sugar for jam making, with various levels of success; I would be interested in hearing from anyone else who has done this.

For best results, cook smaller batches of 1-3kgs of fruit at a time.  It is easier to manage and your jam pot is small enough that you can still reach the bottom with s long spoon to make sure the jam is not catching.
During the cooking process you will end up with bubbles on top. They reach a sort of critical mass, so it is best to leave them until you have finished cooking before you skim, otherwise more will form and you are wasting jam.
The cleanliness of your jar is so important. I clean mine in the dishwasher and then bake them in the oven for 10 minutes on 180c while my jam is cooking. I take them out one by one, filling, capping and moving aside to make space for the next jar. Look after your fingers!

Kia makona, Mawera Karetai x

1 kg fresh strawberries, hulled
750gms white sugar
2 Tblsp lemon juice

  1.   In a heavy based pot crush the strawberries with a potato masher.
  2.  Add sugar and lemon juice. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 105 degrees C. If you do not have a thermometer, you can test by placing a few drops of jam on a cold plate. If it is thin and rolls down the plate continue cooking. If it is thick and begins to wrinkle, it is cooked.
  3. Transfer to hot sterile jars, leaving 1cm headspace and seal. If any of your jars do not seal properly, you need to keep them in the fridge.

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