How to make jam
Making jam is the perfect cheap home made gift idea. It involves only a tiny bit of science and is forgiving of newbie mistakes. Learn how to make a VERY special plum glitter jam recipe…
We’ve been baking cupcakes, muffins and suchlike for ages now, but jam is the preserve (haha! A punne, or playe on wordes!) of people who really want to create gloriosity in the kitchen. Making jam is a tiny bit harder than just boiling up a load of ripe fruit into mush, but not by much. Plus it’s a great (and cheap) make your own Christmas gift idea. Perfect for any other occasion. Or for just storing up and tunnelling your way through one sticky spoonful at a time…
How to make jam: The science bit
The taste and texture of your jam depends on 3 things: sugar, pectin and acidity. And, of course, your choice of fruit for taste. But let’s stick to the science bit for now. It’s not rocket science. It’s jam science. Much easier.
Pectin is what makes your jam set. A lot of pectin makes jam solid, and not much pectin makes jam soft and runny. Under-ripe fruits have lots of pectin in them. Ripe and over-ripe fruits have less (because pectin decays over time). So using ripe fruits in your jam will make it very soft, and using -under-ripe fruits will make your jam set solid. It’s best to assume most fruit is low in pectin and it’s best to buy some pectin to give your jam a little help in setting.
Yes, pectin is vegan, if you’re wondering. Pectin is entirely vegetarian and non-dairy – it comes from fruit. Yes, pectin is a chemical – but it’s not what we’d class a ‘bad’ chemical, and you can buy pectin online that has been extracted from fruits like apple or lime. If you REALLY don’t want to add any chemicals to your jam, try grating pear in with your cooked fruit to help your jam set (or grating Bramley apples to help it set a little more solidly).
Sugar also helps your jam set – and, of course, makes it sweeter. It’s up to you how much sugar you decide to put in, but it’s better to add the sugar to your cooked fruit when most of the liquid has boiled away. Otherwise, as the liquid evaporates your jam will get unexpectedly sweeter and sweeter. It’s much easier to judge the taste if you put the sugar in near the end of boiling up the fruit for the jam.
Acidity helps activate the pectin, and is easiest found in lemon juice. When you’ve cooked most of the liquid out of your fruit and add the sugar, add the lemon juice then – or even a little later, once you’ve stirred the sugar around a bit and got it to seep into the fruit.
Which fruits make the best jam?
All fruits make the best jam! But different fruits do different things. You can find out a little more about how different fruits behave when making jam here.
Jam-Making Equipment You Will Need
- Large saucepan
- Canning jars
- sugar / jam thermometer (also useful for making our vegan lollipops recipe)
Pectin (though the following jam recipe does without. It’s your choice).
How to make jam using the BBC’s GLITTER PLUM JAM RECIPE
Google for jam recipes to find the recipe you want to work with. For this jam-making tutorial we are picking this awesome one we found on the BBC – it’s a recipe for plum glitter jam!
Glitter Plum Jam Recipe
Makes 1 litre jam (about 3-4 jam jars’ worth). Takes 30 min to prepare, and 30-60 min to cook.
Grab: 350g Bramley apples, 1.3kg plums, 800g sugar (either granulated or caster is fine), the juice of 2 lemons, the juice AND zest of 2 oranges and… the best bit… 2 teaspoons of gold edible glitter. Gold will look very pretty in that rich burgundy-purple plum jam.
Remember: Even though it’s a plum jam, you’re adding the Bramley apples because they have lots of pectin and will help the jam to set. You’re adding the oranges and lemons to increase the acidity of the jam, which will help make the pectin work properly.
You don’t want the apple peel. Peel your apples, core them (or at least discard the bitter pips and stalk) then grate them straight into your saucepan. Boil the apples in 500ml water for about 15 mins, or until the water’s almost gone and the shreds of grated apple are falling apart.
Chop up the plums roughly, keeping the skins and getting rid of the stones (maybe plant them in an old food can and grow a plum tree?). Add them to your cooked apples along with the orange juice (but not the zest). Again, cook till the liquid’s almost boiled away and the fruit mixture is soft and mushy and falling apart – about another 15 minutes.
Add the lemon juice and sugar, bring to the boil and cook the mixture until it reaches 104C/219F on your sugar thermometer. Remember, hot sugar is VERY hot, and therefore worthy of respect and great care. Important: Keep stirring your jam once you’ve added the sugar as it will get very sticky and stick to the bottom of the saucepan if you’re not careful. As the jam’s temperature climbs to reach 104C/219F it will start bubbling – this is the time to take greatest care.
Once your jam has hit the right temperature, add the zest and the edible glitter – they’re the pretty bits that show your jam is home-made! Stir the bits in and take the jam off the heat.
Spoon your lovely home-made jam into clean jam jars and seal them immediately.
Don’t eat the jam when it’s hot! Wait for it to cool. Ideally, wait a day or so for it to set.
And there you have it. You now know how to make jam! As Christmas approaches, your home-made jam – prettily presented in a jam jar, perhaps with the handwritten jam recipe attached – makes for a lovely, home-made, unique and cheap Christmas gift idea.
See our home made jam recipe: Plum jam with edible glitter!
You will need canning jars
You will need a sugar / jam thermometerto make jam. They’re very cheap (£2-6) and this Tala sugar thermometer gets 5 stars on Amazon