One of my earliest memories is of sitting up on the work surface in our green melamine kitchen watching my mum make jam. Of course I was placed well away from the hot liquid bubbling away in a huge preserving pan, but I was often allowed to do the ‘saucer test’, carefully pushing my little finger against a blob of jam on a cold saucer to see if it was set.
I’m a bit of a slap-dash jam maker, but I don’t think it matters. I like to pop over to my Dad’s beautiful garden and pilfer whatever berries he’s got lying about and make it up into small batches (who’s got room to store ten pots of the stuff anyway – or indeed a pot to boil it all in?).
As a VERY general rule, anything that’s a bit sour will have higher pectin (so those slightly tart blackberries that you pick off the hedgerows set quite nicely, as do things like gooseberries and crabapples), but anything sweeter, like the strawberries and raspberries in your garden need a bit of help. I don’t like my jam too set so I use half and half preserving sugar to normal granulated, and add the juice of a lemon.
Make sure you’ve put a saucer in the fridge before you start, and have your jam jars (or whatever you’re using) sterilised (excellent link here) and ready to go.
You will need:
About 500g berries, whatever you have: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries etc
About 500g (the same weight as the fruit) sugar: half preserving, half granulated (see above)
1 lemon, juiced
So before you start, make sure you’ve picked out any stalks or creepy crawlies (this reminds me of my Dad’s favourite joke: what’s worse than finding a maggot in your apple? Finding half a maggot), and make sure everything is roughly the same size (I quartered some of the bigger strawberries).
Pop the fruit into a large saucepan and warm it up while you’re weighing out the sugars, then add them in too along with the lemon juice.
Now, just leave it on a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved. When it’s no longer gritty, whack it up high and allow it to bubble away for ten minutes.
Now for the saucer test. Get a little teaspoon of the jam and pop it on your cold saucer. Push it gently with your little finger. If it wrinkles up, then it’s set. Otherwise leave it a bit longer and try again with the saucer.
When it’s ready, pour carefully into your jam jars (or in my case, jam jars and then ‘oh blimey, what can I put this last bit in?’). With the fruit to sugar ratio, it won’t keep indefinitely (we keep ours in the fridge just to be sure), but hey, when it’s this easy you can just make another batch, right?