How-to-make-jam 1040

How To Make Jam

Good news! Jam is very simple to make. Most recipes involve:

  • 50% fruit by weight
  • 50% sugar by weight
  • Pectin (only required for fruit naturally low in this plant fibre)
  • Fruit acid (optional - see below)

With small variations on the proportions according to taste and the natural sweetness of the fruit.

You may also like to see our allotment recipes section.

Introduction To Jam Making

Jam has always been a delicacy - a treat to be enjoyed. It is also a preserve, a way of keeping the goodness of fruit (vitamins and minerals) for long after the harvest has passed. Read on to find out more.

What Is Jam?

How To Make Jam - FruitJam has been made for centuries on difference continents, by different peoples, using different ingredients. This cultural diversity means there is no one universal definition, especially when it comes to naming different types of conserves and preserves.

Our favourite set of descriptions is as follows:

  • Jam
    Made from soft fruit, typically with the fruit chopped up coarsely and recognisable when spread (ie not blended to a paste or a clear jelly).
  • Marmalade
    Made from citrus fruit like oranges, limes, and quince. Marmalades may have small chunks (bits) of fruit contained with a smooth paste or jelly made from pulped or blended fruit fresh.
  • Jelly
    Made from the juice of fruit, often because it is difficult to remove the pips or peel from the fruit itself, and it is desirable to do so . Think redcurrants, whitecurrants, and blackcurrants.
  • Preserves
    Like jam, marmalade, and jelly (plus chutneys) - made from fresh (not dried) ingredients.
  • Conserves
    Very similar to preserves. Naming difference may relate to using some dried fruit or nuts in the ingredients.

How To Make Jam - Whitecurrant Jelly

What Is Pectin?

Pectin is a naturally occurring carbohydrate found in plant cells. It is important in jam making as it helps the jam thicken (or set). Without pectin, a jam can be soggy and runny.

For the jam maker, there are three choices:

  • Use fruit naturally high in pectin
  • If using fruit low in pectin, add an extra fruit containing pectin (ie peel or skin)
  • Use commercial pectin

Using commercial pectin is the convenient alternative to option 2, as commercial pectin is often derived from fruit naturally high in pectin. Not all supermarkets stock pectin, and those that do may be sold out during jam making season. For convenience, it may be worth keep a small box of powdered pectin in your kitchen cupboard. See pectin on Amazon UK.

Shown below are relative pectin levels of different fruits - those marked high will not need extra pectin to make jam. Even for those fruit high in pectin, use slightly underripe fruit at at the expense of overripe fruit, as underripe fruit has higher pectin levels. For some fruit, like raspberries and tayberries, that naturally contain middling amounts of pectin, there are recipes that use added pectin and ones without.

In general, recipes that do not use pectin are lower in sugar and have a more fruity flavour (at the risk of a more runny jam). Recipes with added pectin use more sugar as this helps the jam to set.

High Pectin Fruits (Do Not Need Pectin)

(Pectin levels are highest in the skin, pith, and seeds - and younger less ripe fruit)

  • Apples (cooking & crab apples)
  • Blackcurrants
  • Cranberries
  • Gooseberries
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Redcurrants
  • Whitecurrants

Medium Pectin Fruits (Consider Using Pectin)

(Do not use overripe fruit. Consider using pectin to avoid too runny a jam.)

  • Blackberries
  • Elderberries
  • Loganberries
  • Raspberries
  • Tayberries

Low Pectin Fruits (Use Pectin)

  • Apples (dessert)
  • Apricots
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries (Sweet)
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Rhubarb
  • Strawberries

What Is Fruit Acid?

Fruit acid helps to add flavour to jams, but perhaps more importantly, works with pectin and sugar to help a jam set.

Consider adding lemon juice to recipes if you are using very ripe fruit, or fruit low in fruit acid such as strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. If adding lemon juice, the juice of one lemon should be sufficient, equivalent to around 3 tablespoons or 45ml.

Next: Jam Cooking Method
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