Jams and Jellies
Rows of brightly-coloured jams and jellies, with a rich fruity flavour and which keep well, are the expected rewards for the jam maker’s efforts. But as fruits vary from season to season even the most experienced can have the occasional failure unless the reason for each step is understood and simple tests made.
Slightly under-ripe, freshly gathered fruit is best. Over-ripe fruit will have lost some of its pectin. Wash fruit just before using; remove stalks and leaves and, if liked, remove stones. Pectin is a natural gum-like substance present in varying degrees in fruit which, when the fruit is boiled with sugar, is capable of forming a jelly. Pectin is only released when acid is also present. Fruits containing both pectin and acid, such as cooking apples, currants, damsons, gooseberries and some plums, make a well-setting jam; others, including apricots, blackberries, greengages, loganberries and raspberries have medium-setting properties and often acid is added. Cherries, pears,and some strawberries produce a poor set. Add 2 x 15ml spoons (2tbsps) lemon juice to each 2kg (41b) fruit at the beginning of cooking to correct acid deficiency. Commercially made pectin, or fruit rich in pectin such .as apple, can be added to fruits with little pectin.
Use a large, thick pan of aluminium, stainless steel or unchipped enamel.
Cooking is done slowly to soften the skins and extract the pectin. Water is added only to prevent the fruit burning and soft fruits usually do not require water. Simmer until fruit is reduced to a pulp.
Test for pectin
Put 1 x 5ml spoon (1tsp) of the liquid from the fruit into a small glass. When cool add 1 x 15ml spoon (1tbsp) methylated spirit. Shake gently and leave 1 minute. A jelly-like lump indicates plenty of pectin, two or three less firm ones means less pectin and many tiny ones show little pectin.
Use preserving, lump or granulated sugar which dissolves more quickly if warmed in slow oven. Use 1/2kg (1-1/2lb) sugar to each 1/2kg (1lb) fruit for a good clot, 2kg (1 lb) for medium pectin.
Where there is little pectin add commercial pectin as given on pack and treat as good clot.
After adding the sugar, stir to dissolve, then bring to boil over full heat and cook rapidly. Stir occasionally until a set is reached (3-20 minutes, according to kind).
Test for set
Quickest and most reliable is to use a sugar thermometer. Stand it in hot water, then stir jam and put thermometer into centre making sure bulb docs not touch base of pan. 104°C/220°F shows setting point has been reached.
Another method is to put 1 x 5ml spoon (1tsp) jam on to a cold saucer, allow to cool, then push with finger. If cooked enough, surface should have set and will wrinkle. Remove from heat at each test.
Remove from heat and remove any scum. Pour at once into clean, heated jars and fill to brim. Wipe neck of jar, if necessary, press waxed discs, wax side down, on to surface of jam and finish with a transparent cellulose or parchment cover.
Label and date when cold and store in a cool, dry, dark, well ventilated place.
If fruit contains whole fruit, such as strawberries with commercial pectin, or for whole fruit jam, cool in pan until a skin forms. Stir gently, then pour into jars. This should spread fruit evenly.
Whole fruit jam
Layer 2kg (1lb) fruit with 2kg (1lb) sugar, cover and leave 24 hours. Transfer to pan, add lemon juice if needed, bring slowly to boil, stirring carefully until sugar dissolves, and cook rapidly to set point.
If 2-1/4kg (5lb) jam is obtained for each 1.5kg (3lb) sugar used, the jam should have a good set and keep well.
Jam from frozen fruits
As some pectin is lost during storage, use 10% more fruit than usual. Put frozen fruit in pan with a little water and heat very gently until juice runs. Proceed as above.
As the pulp is discarded choose fruit with a strong flavour such as blackberries, damsons, redcurrants, quince or well-flavoured crabapples. Some, such as sloes, mulberries, cranberries, elderberries, bilberries, whortleberries, etc., set better when mixed with apple.
Wash fruit, remove any unsound part but do not bother to stalk currants or peel or core apples. Cut up large fruit. Put into a pan with 150ml (1/3 pint) water to 2kg (1lb) berries and up to 450ml (1 pint) for hard fruits. Simmer slowly ¾-1 hour until fruit is very soft. Test for pectin. If poor, cook further to evaporate excess water.
Strain the pulp through a jelly bag of felt or flannel, scalded by pouring boiling water through it. Attach by its cotton loops to legs of upturned kitchen chair or stool. (Or use several thicknesses of butter muslin or calico in same way.) Put large basin underneath, then pour in contents of pan gently and leave until juice has run through. Do not squeeze bag or jelly will cloud.
If pectin test gave very firm clot re-cook pulp with half original amount of water and strain. Mix with first liquid. Adding sugar Measure juice, return to pan and bring to boil. Add 350-550g (¾ – 1-1/4lb) sugar to 600ml (1 pint) juice, adding most sugar to a firm pectin clot. Finish as for jam but boiling time to a set is likely to be 10-15 minutes. Jelly is usually set in small jars.
Using apple or crab-apple jelly recipe as basis, cook the fruit with sprigs of the herb. For a stronger flavour add the herb, chopped, just before setting point is reached.
The basic principles for making marmalade are the same as those employed for jam, but instead of sweet fruits, the citrus fruits-oranges, lemons, grapefruits and limes—are used, either singly or in varying combinations. Originally marmalade was made only with quince (whence, from the Latin marmelo, comes its lovely name) but it is more often associated with bitter Seville oranges. More recently sweet oranges and mixtures of oranges have become popular. Another new idea is to add a little brandy, Scotch whisky or ginger wine to the recipe. The peel of citrus fruits requires longer cooking than the skins of fruit used for jam, so extra water is added. The main sources of pectin are the pips and white pith. The pith can be included in the marmalade to give a more bitter taste.
Wash fruit very well, cut into halves and squeeze out juice. Put juice into large basin and pips into smaller one. Remove pulp, chop finely and add to juice. If pith is not to be left in marmalade separate from peel, chop and add to pips. Shred peel finely and add to juice. If pith remains in marmalade it is quicker to slice by special machine, or mince. Use 1.7 litres (3 pints) water to 2kg (1lb) fruit. Cover pips with water and add rest to peel. There is no need to soak the pips overnight.
Tie pips and pith in muslin. Add with their water to contents of other basin in large pan. Boil until peel is soft and original bulk reduced to half (1-½ – 3 hours). Or cook in a pressure cooker for ½ – 1 hour using only half the water. It is best to test for pectin and if the clot is not firm then add juice of 1 lemon to each 2kg (1lb) fruit and boil before testing again. Then remove bag of pips, squeezing out as much liquid as possible.
Add 3kg (6lb) sugar to 1.5kg (3lb) fruit. Stir until sugar is dissolved, bring to boil and boil rapidly to setting point (up to 20 minutes). Test for set, pot and cover as for jam.
Marmalade from frozen fruit
As for jam. Use 10% extra fruit to allow for loss of pectin