Monday, 16 July 2007

Making Jam

So, no surprise, we've been making jam. I'm going to post about the jam-making process generally here, and then post recipes separately.

In general, whatever fruit you are using must be washed, picked over, have stems or pits removed or possibly be cut up. Here's my trusty assistant pitting cherries. Various devices have been invented for the pitting of cherries, but the sad truth is that nothing works like a thumbnail. These are sour cherries, though, and the pits come out very easily. It's still a pretty tedious job.

In this series of jam recipes, I start by extracting the juice from red currants. They are extremely rich in both pectin and acid; two of the componants required for your jam to set. I like to make jam which is as low in sugar as I possibly can get it, and I have found I have had much better success using currant juice instead of commercial pectins.

Once the currants have cooked to the point that most of them have burst, they are pressed through a sieve to extract the juice. There's no need to remove them from the stems; I just pick out the leaves. The seeds and stems are discarded after pressing.

The currant juice, sugar and other fruit are then cooked until certain visual cues suggest that the jam will set once cool. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of that stage. This is somewhat earlier. First the mixture runs off the spoon in a single stream. As it gets closer to the set point, it runs off the spoon in two streams. Finally, when the jam is ready, it will return to running off the spoon in one stream again - but this time in a wider sheet, and it will show signs of wanting to linger on the edge of the spoon. Actually, I took this picture during the two-stream stage, but it only caught one of them. You can just see another drip forming to one side of the prominent one.

Meanwhile, you have had your jars in a large kettle of boiling water to be sterilized. They must be covered by an inch of water at least, and brought to a full rolling boil for 10 minutes. (Check them before they go in - they are pretty tough glass but occasionally the rims can be chipped.) Then they can be removed and filled, with utensils that have been also dipped in the boiling water for several minutes. For jam, I fill up the kettle and start the jars a few minutes before I start cooking the jam ingredients. It takes a good long time for a pot of water this size to come to a boil.

Once the jars are filled, dip a bit of a crumpled, clean new paper towel in the boiling water, and wipe the rims to be sure that there is no jam or juice left on the rims to prevent a perfect seal.

The jars are then capped and sealed with lids and rings. I boil them separately, in their own pot. Five minutes is the standard time for boiling these. If they are ready a few minutes early, turn them off and let them sit in the pot. However, do try not to have them ready too far in advance. I turn the heat on for the pot just as the jam is starting to look ready and I am about to fish the jars out of their boiling water bath.
The boiling water bath. Yes this is a pressure canner, but no, I am not pressure canning at this time. I just find it easier on the storage space to have one canner. Having a pressure canner allows me to do both kinds. For regular canning, I just don't lock the lid.

Once the jars are filled and sealed, into the boiling water bath they go again for just 5 minutes, to ensure a good seal.

Remember, everything covered by at least an inch!

Everybody poses for a group shot, and then into the hall closet - the coolest, darkest place I can find in my little apartment - for storage. There is cherry jam on the left, raspberry in the middle and far right, and blueberry on the right. All of them with a base of red currants.


Vanessa said...

Great post! Thanks.

Ferdzy said...

Thank you, Vanessa!