Once you’ve tasted a really good batch of homemade jam, on warm toast or a crumpet, with a little butter, it’s hard to resist the urge to try to make some yourself. And why resist, when modern technology has made this ancient art so much easier?
If you’ve never tried making jam from scratch for yourself, here’s your big chance! Get out a giant pot and some clean jars, and put on an apron, because things are about to get messy…
And don’t be afraid. If an actor and an ex-SAS Colonel can do it, so can you.
Step 1: Find some fruit
Head out to the fruit tree or the market and scoop up some jewels for yourself. Not just any old apple. You want fruit that is fresh and dry. Jam connoisseurs say to stick to slightly under-ripe fruit, but the whole point of making jam is to make the most of all the leftover fruit at the end of the season, so this may be a matter of taste.
Step 2: Prepare the jars
You need clean jars or glasses to store the jam in. Seriously clean.
Put the oven on and pop the jars in there on a tray, to keep them hot until you’re ready to use them. Otherwise, the glass might crack when you slop in the hot, freshly-cooked jam.
Step 3: Crush fruit and boil in water
Jam can only be made in small batches of about 6 cups at a time, or the jam won’t set properly. Try a small amount for your first go. Crush the fruit up, the boil it in water.
How much water? How long do you boil it for? Depends on the recipe! Basically, boil the fruit and water until the fruit is very soft and pulpy.
Step 4: Add sugar
Mmmm, sugar. Some say this is the most important step in creating an amazing – or at least edible – jam. Some fruits are not actually that sweet. Don’t stress, you don’t need to use fancy and expensive jam sugar.
Stir it over a gentle heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. But – and this part is important – don’t boil it, or you will crystallise the sugar and everything will be ruined. Once the sugar is all dissolved, boil it for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly.
If your jam starts to look “scummy”, with white or grey froth or streaks, this means air bubbles have gotten trapped in the jam. To work them out, wait till you’re done cooking it, then stir the jam in one direction consistently until the froth disappears.
Step 5: Skim some off the top
You’ll probably have to skim off the top layer because it will still be foam.
Step 6: Seal it up
Pour into the sterilised jars and seal them up. If you’re using glasses, you can use cloth or cling wrap over the top to seal it, as long as you secure it properly with a rubber band or twine.
Put them in the fridge and wait until they’re set before spreading them on your pancakes.
Step 7: Bask in the joy of creation
Congratulations! You made something from scratch. Those splashes of fruit and sugar on your apron? The marks of a true chef.
If it tastes good, share it with all of your friends and family and enjoy your bragging rights.
If it was … less than perfection, rest assured that when she first started out, Julia Child herself could not chop an onion properly. Try again next year!