People are often put off at the idea of making jam. I suppose buying a jar of it cheaply in the shop instead of dealing with boiling sugar and sterilising jars has its merits but historically, jam served a very valuable purpose. It was simply a way of preserving large amounts of fruit when in season so it could be eaten all year round. And no, there isn’t the same necessity for it now with modern refrigeration and, if you choose to, you can take eating seasonally as a mere suggestion by buying fruit and veg in the supermarket where it will have more air-miles than you ever will yourself. This summer I bought some blackberries in the supermarket and I was shocked to see the words “Product of Mexico” on the packet when, here in Ireland, the hedgerows are now teeming with them.
Yes, there is a bit of hassle sterilising the jars and you should always exercise caution when dealing with hot sugar but this isn’t rocket science either. A hundred years ago, housewives were making jam without any fancy modern kitchen equipment so you have no excuse! Though a jam making kit is cheap and has all you need.
To sterilise the jars, lids and jam funnel, I just immerse them in water, bring it to the boil and allow to boil for about 10 minutes. You can also sterilise them in the dishwasher by running it on a hot setting, though my beat up old dishwasher has its hands full washing the plates so sterilising something might be a bit tough.
Giving an actual recipe for jam is a bit pointless because it’s all about what you have that needs preserving and how much of it. Whatever weight of fruit you have, use the same weight of sugar. For the batch below I used 1.6 Kg, or about 3.5 pounds. The only thing to consider is the pectin content of the fruit. Gooseberries are high in pectin, which is what makes jam set, so I used ordinary granulated sugar, with no added pectin. If I was making strawberry or raspberry jam I would use maybe a third jam sugar and two thirds regular sugar because these are much lower in pectin.
If you want to use added flavours, that is completely up to you. I tried out the cinnamon and vanilla because I thought these were so associated with home baking and would then work well on a scone or some home-made bread. (PS, mission accomplished!)
- 1.6 Kg gooseberries
- 1.6 Kg sugar
- 2 10 cm cinnamon sticks
- 2 vanilla beans
- Bring the fruit to the boil in a heavy based pan.
- When almost at the boil add the cinnamon and the scraped out seeds of the vanilla beans and the empty beans themselves.
- When boiling, add the sugar and mix to dissolve.
- Allow to boil, stirring occasionally, until a sugar thermometer reads 113 degrees Celsius or 220 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Decant into sterilised jars and seal the lids.
- Place the jars into a pan of water so they are completely submerged and upright and allow to boil for about 20 minutes.
- Place on a tea towel and allow to cool.