The list can be long, but you use most of these utensils everyday.
- A stainless steel bowl for the jam
(copper spreads heat better but is not advised for soaking)
- A slotted spoon and a metal ladle (plastic doesn’t resist heat well)
- Large glass jars
- A big wooden spoon to stir the fruit (prolonged contact with metal can cause oxidation)
- Kitchen scales (the quantities of fruit and sugar
need to be exact)
Make sure you equip yourself with a blender if you want to make jelly.
Calorie-free jam simply doesn't exist, and sugar is vital (it preserves the fruit). The less sugar you use the shorter the time you can keep your jam, which is why jam must contain at least 60% sugar. Among the types available, the best to use is granulated sugar (cane or beet), light brown cane sugar (more fragrant) or special jam sugar that contains pectin to help it set better.
Setting and thickening agents
To avoid runny jam or jelly you need to use a setting agent. The most common is pectin, a natural substance found in some fruits. Sugar for jam already contains it so extra isn't required. If you use light brown sugar or ordinary white sugar you can buy the pectin in pastry
aisles in supermarkets or in pharmacies. Another possibility which is more tedious is to make the pectin yourself, by boiling apple or orange
the latest setting agent at the moment is agar agar, which is very effective and ideal for saving runny jam. Use 1 to 2g powdered agar agar per kilo of fruit. Bear in mind that agar agar must be used cold then heated and it sets when it cools. You must first make your jam, let it cool, add the agar-agar, then heat it up let it simmer for 3-4 mins before finally putting it in a jar. Remember to add lemon juice during cooking for prettier colours and a firmer texture. If you get runny jam, add the juice of two lemons and re-heat everything for 5 mins. Your jam or jelly should be saved.
Contrary to the persistent myth, jam does not have to be cooked for hours: most of the time 30 mins is long enough. Stir your jam throughout the cooking process to stop it sticking, but there’s no need to skim it constantly. Skim once and repeat if you think necessary.
Precautions, sterilisation, preservation and labelling
Fruit is fragile even once cooked, so impeccable sterilisation is essential. Wash your utensils carefully, wash your jars and boil them for 5-10 mins. We advise screw on lids with a joint that dilates with heat to keep air out. Used covers are less effective than new ones. If your jam is correctly sterilised you can keep it for several years, but it is best used in the first 6 months of making it (after which it loses its flavour). Keep your jars in a cupboard away from light and damp. Label your jars with the date and flavour (it's not always easy to tell your strawberry from your raspberry!). Once opened, keep in the fridge. You know your jam is edible if there are no signs of mould and you get the characteristic ‘pop’ when you open the jar that tells you it has stayed airtight.
Tips, flavours and decoration ideas
Today's culinary trends are for mixing flavours, so add aromatic herbs and spices such as rosemary or thyme to apricot, mint and bee balm to strawberry, ginger and cinnamon to citrus fruit and vanilla to melon or chestnut jam. Also delicious are dried fruit, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, figs, apricots etc. Finally, flowers and vegetables have made their way into the jam aisles too, and you'll find rose petal, bay, violet and hibiscus jelly as well as tomato, carrot and pumpkin jam, onion chutney...anything is possible!
Decoration and presentation
- Make pretty labels
- For a retro effect decorate your jars with Vichy fabric and ribbon
- Pop a cinnamon stick or a star anise into your jars
- Place a rosemary stem or whole flower petals in your jelly
- Citrus jams and jelly are prettier with citrus peel added