One of the best things about being self sufficient is that you have plenty of spare produce to preserve in different ways to keep over the winter months. Both fruit and vegetables can be turned into jams and chutneys, and frozen, dried, or stored in oil and vinegar.
Making jam is a good way to deal with gluts so you don’t waste any of your harvest. Jam can be made from virtually any ingredients, but the most common ingredients include blackberries, raspberries, tayberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, blueberries, strawberries and gooseberries.
Preparing Your Fruit
Fruit destined to be made into jam should be firm, young and never overripe. Wash and prepare the fruit, making sure you cut away bruised areas. Small fruits can be left whole, but larger fruits, especially ones with small pips or stones, should be halved or quartered to an equal size. Apricots and peaches should also be peeled (simply blanch the whole fruits in a saucepan of boiling water until the skin appears loose, then drain, leave to cool and the skin should fall off easily).
Making jam is easy. Take your chosen fruit, wash and prepare it, and weigh it. It doesn’t matter how much fruit you have (although it’s advisable that you have at least 500g to make it worth it). Weigh out an equal amount of sugar. An optional ingredient is pectin. Pectin helps the jam become firm. You can buy pectin in the shops and follow the instructions on the packet, or use a few slices of apple in your mixture. Apple is a natural source of pectin and will do the job just as well.
Heat the sugar and the fruit (with or without pectin) in a large pan and stir until they have formed a smooth consistency. Keep the pan on the heat and keep stirring until it starts to congeal. Remove a small amount of the jam on a teaspoon and leave it for a minute. If it starts to crinkle, the jam is ready. If it doesn’t, you will need to keep heating the mixture.
Once the jam is ready, spoon it into clean, sterile jars and seal. Keep in a cool, dark cupboard and eat within a year.
Ensure your jars are sterilised before you use them. This removes any bacteria present, which would cause your fruit to go off sooner than it would otherwise. Either wash the jars in your dishwasher just before you use them, or in hot, soapy water. Rinse them and stand them upside down in the oven at 150 C for 30 minutes. Your jars must be hot when you ladle in the jam.
Use a large, heavy non-metallic pan. Add sugar to the liquid over gentle heat and don’t stir it until it has all dissolved naturally. This prevents the mixture crystallisation and burning.
When the mixture dries it can be prone to shrinking. Tap the jars to remove any air bubbles. This will prevent oxygen from being trapped inside the jars, which can make them go off. Once the mixture is in, seal the jars immediately. If you’re using metallic lids, seal the jars with greaseproof paper and fix it with an elastic band. This prevents the acid in the mixture from coming into contact with the lid and corroding it.
Jam is a tasty alternative to traditional ways of eating fruit, and enables you to enjoy the fruit beyond its natural season.