Making jams and preserves
Getting the pectin right
A well set jam needs a good balance of pectin and acid. For the best results, combine fruits with differing pectin contents, such as apples and blackberries or strawberries and redcurrants.
• Fruits rich in pectin which will give a good set are apples, gooseberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and damsons.
• Those with a moderate amount include plums, greengages, raspberries, apricots and loganberries.
• Fruits with very little pectin are strawberries, cherries, blackberries, pears and rhubarb. Vegetables are also low in pectin.
How to keep soft fruit whole
Sugar has a hardening effect, so sprinkle it over soft ingredients, such as strawberries or marrow chunks, before using them in a preserve. Let the sugared fruit stand overnight; then cook as the recipe directs.
Setting tests for jam
For best results, combine the temperature test with either the drop or the cold plate test. Start testing the jam when it reaches 105°C (220°F).
You will need a cooking thermometer for this method. Let the thermometer warm up and cool down gradually by placing it in hot water before and after use. To heat the jam, stir it thoroughly, then place the thermometer in the pan so that the bulb is completely immersed but not touching the base.
Dip a wooden spoon into the jam, hold it horizontally and let the jam cool slightly. Tilt the spoon and allow the jam to drop from the edge. When it has been sufficiently boiled, small droplets of jam will run together on the edge of the spoon forming large drops. These larger drops should fall cleanly from the rim of the spoon.
Cold plate test
Drop a small spoonful of jam onto a cold plate. If it has reached setting point the surface will set as it cools, and should crinkle when pushed with a fingertip. Take the jam off the heat while you are doing the test, or it may boil beyond the setting point while you are waiting for the sample to cool.
Rescuing disasters: jam
Runny, unset consistency
If you reboil the jam the flavour may be spoiled, so set it with gelatine instead. Dissolve the gelatine in a little water, then warm the jam and stir evenly into the gelatine solution. Repot and use within a few weeks, or the gelatine may attract mould.
Heat the jam very gently until melted, then repot. Use up fairly soon, as the crystals may eventually reappear.