Jam is based on one or more types of
fruit. The fruit is cooked until tender, sugar is added, then the
mixture is cooked until it will jell, or become thick enough to spread
when it is served at room temperature. A conserve is a preserve made
from whole or large pieces of fruit, made in the same way as jam.
A jelly differs from jam in that it is
made using only the strained juice from the cooked fruit (the fruit pulp
is discarded). The juice is combined with sugar then cooked to a point
at which it will set at room temperature. A good jelly should be
transparent, firm enough to hold its own shape, but soft enough to
quiver when cut with a spoon.
To test if jam/jelly has jelled -
When your jam or jelly is thickening - at this stage, the mixture will
have reduced to about half the original quantity - remove it from heat
to test if it has jelled. Drop a teaspoon of mixture onto a saucer that
has been chilled in a freezer for a few minutes. Return saucer to
freezer until jam or jelly has cooled.
- Jam that contains pieces of fruit should
have formed a skin that wrinkles when pushed with finger.
- Jam that has a thick and pulpy texture
should have a spreadable consistency.
- Jelly should be a firm mass on the
saucer. If mixture has not jelled, return to heat and boil mixture
rapidly until it will jell when subsequently tested (this may only take
a few minutes). If you have a candy thermometer, it's handy to know that
jams and jellies will reach jelling point at 105C to 106C.
Straining fruit to make jelly -
Cooked fruit must be strained through damp muslin or other fine cloth to
make jelly, following either of these easy methods.
- A cone-shaped jelly bag, with
attachments for hanging, can be purchased from specialist kitchen
stores; dampen the bag before use.
- A jelly bag can be made by tying the
corners of a square of damp fine cloth (muslin, boiled unbleached
calico, sheet) to the legs of an upturned chair or stool, leaving cloth
loose enough to dip in the centre. Place a large bowl under the bag or
cloth. Pour the fruit and its liquid into the bag or cloth; allow
mixture to drip through bag/cloth for several hours or overnight. Do not
squeeze or press the mixture through the bag/cloth as this will result
in cloudy jelly.
Pectin content in jelly - Each
jelly recipe requires you to test the strained juice for pectin content
to determine how much sugar to add. This differs based on ripeness,
acidity and type of fruit used.
To test for pectin content: Place 1
tsp strained fruit liquid in a glass, add 3 tsp methylated spirits; stir
mixture gently. The liquid is normally almost colorless.
- If mixture forms fairly solid, single
jelly-like clot, the fruit liquid is high in pectin; in this case use 1
cup (220g) sugar per 1 cup fruit liquid.
- If several smaller clots of jelly form,
the jelly is not high in pectin; use 3/4 cup (165g) sugar per 1 cup
- If pectin test fails to produce any
clots, or gives a mass of tiny clots, add some fruit juice naturally
rich in pectin - usually 2 tbsp fresh strained lemon juice per 1kg fruit
used; add this after sugar has dissolved.
How to make a successful jam or jelly ?
- Select slightly under-ripe, unbruised,
- Use wide-topped aluminum,
stainless-steel or enamel boilers or saucepans; do not use copper or
unsealed cast-iron pans.
- Make sure the pan you use is big enough;
a pan that's too small doesn't allow for the necessary evaporation and
results in runny jam. As a guide, once the sugar has been added to the
jam or jelly mixture in pan, the whole should not be any more than 5cm
An imbalance of acid and pectin also causes jam and jelly not to set.
Lemon juice can be added and the mixture re-boiled until it jells.
However, if the mixture has already darkened and tastes of caramel, it
cannot be re-boiled. If it is still palatable, use commercial pectin
(available in powdered form from some health food stores) to set the jam
or jelly. Follow the directions on the packet.
- Use super-clean, just sterilized jars.
- Stored correctly, your jams and jellies
will keep for up to a year.
Sterilizing, sealing and storage -
You storage jars must be glass and without chips or cracks. Just before
use, they must be sterilized and dried, using clean hands and a clean
How to sterilize jars ?
1. Run the jars through the rinse cycle of
your dishwater, at the hottest water temperature. Do not use detergent.
2. Place cleaned jars on their sides in a
large saucepan; cover with cold water. Cover pan and, over high heat,
bring water to a boil; boil 20 minutes. Carefully remove jars from
water; drain. Stand, top up, on wooden board. The heat from the jars
will cause any remaining water to evaporate quickly.
3. Wash the jars in hot soapy water then
rinse in clean hot water to remove soap. Stand jars, top up, on wooden
board placed in cold oven (do not allow jars to touch); turn oven to
very slow, leave for 30 minutes.
How to Seal Jars ? - Special lined
and treated or lacquered lids, available with home preserving outfits,
are suitable for sealing; ordinary metal lids will corrode due to acid
content of the preserve. Plastic screw-top lids also give a good seal.
Wipe over sealed jars with clean tea-towel before labelling.
How to store Preserves ? - Stores
preserves in a cool, dark, dry place until required. If you live in a
humid climate, the best storage place is your refrigerator. Once opened,
all preserves must be covered and kept in the refrigerator.
The color and flavor of jams cooked in a
microwave oven is excellent, and these mouth-watering recipe will attest
to that. When microwaving jams, always use a large, shallow
microwave-safe container and remember to follow the golden rule: check
the preserve often during cooking time. These recipes have been tested
in a 900-watt microwave oven. By following these tried-and-tested
recipes, your jams and jellies will be a guaranteed triumph - sweet,
delicious and simple.