So here’s a thing you might not know about me: I really like cooking. For me, the process of making food is relaxing, almost meditative. When I can’t cook, I get anxious. Often after a really stressful day, I want
to spend time in my kitchen, thinking about nothing except herbs and recipes and chopping. Sometimes I pretend to be Nigella and fill my internal monologue with adjectives like “jewel-like” and “plump”.
For these reasons, I have decided that sometimes I will blog about food. This is the first of those blogs.
Making jam seems scary and difficult and there’s the temptation to leave all that preserving nonsense to grandmothers. The first time I made jam I was pretty convinced it was going to be an abject failure and I would get third degree burns and probably die and why am I even making jam this is going to be the worst. In fact, all that happened was we made jam and it was delicious.
There’s something about the whole process that makes you feel super accomplished. Maybe it’s the danger of boiling sugar. Maybe it’s the feeling of hunkering down for the winter/whatever time of year it is like someone out of a historical/post-apocalyptic novel.
Basically I’m saying that you should try making jam; even if you are not very good at cooking. Jam is deceptively easy and very impressive. It’ll make you feel like a god.
You can use pretty much whatever fruit you like, berries or stone fruit are good. If in doubt, pick a fruit that you already associate with jam like raspberry or apricot. I made nectarine jam for this blog, because I bought some dodgy nectarines on reduced to clear.
: A butt ton. You need equal quantities of fruit and sugar. So for 1kg of fruit, you’ll need 1kg of sugar. This is a lot of sugar. Buy extra sugar.
: Pectin is the thing that makes jam set. It’s naturally in fruit but some fruits have more of it than others; oranges have a bunch but strawberries have less. You’ll need to add extra regardless. It’s usually found near the sugar in supermarkets and comes in little packets like taco seasoning comes in. It will be labelled as “pectin” or “jam setter” or something like that. Alternatively you can buy “jam setting sugar” which already has pectin in it.
: It’s easiest to just keep jars, rather than buying new ones. The jars need to be glass and must have an airtight lid but otherwise there are no rules. I tend to use pasta-sauce jars because I have a lot of them. They’re comically huge though so if you have smaller ones that might be better. Also make sure you have extra jars. You’ll probably end up with more jam than you’re expecting.
: Like the biggest pot you have. You want all the fruit and sugar to only half fill it so that when it all becomes molten and boiling it won’t bubble over and cause a disaster.
Wash out your jars and their lids. If you want to get rid of the labels, just soak them in hot water for a while and they’ll peel right off. Then sterilise everything. Wikihow says you put the jars in the oven to do this but usually I just submerge everything in really hot water for a while. This is probably because I suck at food safety and will die of salmonella.
Cut up your fruit. If the fruit has seeds, take those out. Unless the fruit is strawberries in which case, you can totally leave the seeds in, no-one will care. It’s up to you how small you want to cut everything but generally you can leave it pretty chunky. I just quartered the nectarines.
Put all the fruit in your pot. Cook your fruit for a while until it is slightly mushy.
Also put a saucer or small plate in the freezer. This is for later.
Add the sugar. The thing you need to understand about jam is that it is literally 50% sugar. This will be an alarming amount of sugar. Just go with it. Also add your pectin.
Now boil the whole thing for a while. Just let it bubble away in a terrifying molten mess.
DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO TASTE THE JAM. You will want to try it. Don’t do that. It’s really zarking hot. You can stir it if you want. Leave it bubbling away for at least ten minutes or so, longer for large amounts of jam.
HOW TO TEST IF YOUR JAM IS DONE
Get that cold plate out of the freezer. Spoon a little bit of jam onto the plate (preferably a runny bit without chunks). Let it sit for a minute. Now run a spoon down the middle of the puddle.
If it’s ready: the puddle will crinkle, curling up against the spoon.
If it isn’t ready: the spoon will just run through the puddle like its liquid.
If it’s ready, great! Put it in jars. Otherwise, cook it for a bit longer and try this test again. If it still isn’t working after that, you might need to add more pectin.
This part is important because otherwise your jam won’t set properly and you will basically just get sugary fruit water which isn’t a thing that tastes good on toast.
When your jam has passed the crinkle test you can put it in jars! Yay! The jars should be warm because putting hot jam in cold jars can apparently make them shatter which is bad. If they’ve been soaking in hot water, just dry them off and they’ll be fine.
Things that help with putting jam in jars include: a jug with a spout, a ladle, a funnel. Basically just do whatever you need to do to get the jam in the jars without burning yourself or making too much of a mess. You’ll be fine, I believe in you.
Screw all the lids on nice and tight. You know the little buttons on the top of jars that pop up when you open them? Sometimes, those little buttons will pop back down when the jar is full of jam. This is really cool. I hope that happens when you make jam.
That’s it! You now have jam! Congratulations!
- You can totally use frozen fruit. It’s cheap and still delicious. You can just buy a packet of frozen berries and a packet of sugar and go for your life. Easy!
- Small jars are good because you can give them to friends and family. They will be super impressed and also you won’t have to eat all the jam yourself (unless you want to, you can totally eat it all if you want).
- Chances are you now have a lot of jam. Chances are you will eventually tire of having jam on toast every morning for breakfast. Here are some tasty things which aren’t toast which you can make with your jam: crepes, pudding, fancy jam-drops, regular jam drops, buy a sponge-cake from Woolworths and put jam and cream on it.
In case you missed it, I’ve been appointed co-director of the National Young Writers Festival
. This is a really exciting thing. If you’ve never come to NYWF or TiNA before, definitely think about making the trip this year. It’s going to be super fun and amazing.
Boyfriend and I booked FLIGHTS TO JAPAN. Which means at the end of the year I’ll be spending three whole weeks in Japan. To be honest, our whole plan so far is “Go to Japan, ???, Profit.” So if you’ve got any tips about cool things to do, let me know