Another rather simple product that people buy in stores regularly that they could so easily make at home is jam. A jam takes less than an hour to make but if properly made and stored will last you months. You can make jams out of practically anything and everything but don’t confuse jams with preserves. A lot of restaurants and chefs make savoury preserves but label them as “jams” on their menu when they aren’t actually true jams but actually confits, compotes and preserves (example: Onion Jam, Bacon Jam).
A jam is technically a preserve itself. Preserves are food items that have been stored in a preserving agent like sugar, vinegar, fat, alcohol etc. Jams are preserves that have such a high sugar content that the sugar actually preserves the fruit and prevents it from going off (if stored correctly). Americans refer to jam as “jelly”.
The art of Jam making began in the Middle East and the Christian Crusaders took the concept to Europe during the Crusades. The sticky jelly like nature of a jam comes from Pectin, a substance found in the cells of plants. Some plants have a lot of it and others don’t and basically this is why you see more jams of certain types of fruit than others. With modern technology we chefs can now make jams out of nearly anything because pectin can be bought as a separate product but I’m only going to detail the classic and simplest way of making one. (Aside: we use powdered Pectin to make vegetarian jellies and gels). Feel free to fiddle and experiment.
Its VERY important that you follow this recipe precisely as too much sugar will affect the setting of the jam and too much fruit will cause the jam to grow mould and go off quickly. Use just ripe fruit but not overripe fruit, fruit contains the most amount of pectin when its under-ripe but the downside is that it is not as flavourful. So I recommend you add a few underripe fruit to your mix of ripe fruit just to ensure your jam sets nicely.
Ensure you have sterilized jars (use baby bottle sterilizing agents to sterilize them) ready with double seal lids. Supermarkets sell these, I’ve seen them in the utensil section of good retailers. I also recommend you have a metal “stick” thermometer ready to check the temperature, this is VERY important as sugar has various setting points (called “ball stages”) which can only be determined with a thermometer.
This is a recipe for a strawberry jam. When you cook strawberries they release a lot of liquid but this recipe should work for most fruits. Avoid washing the strawberries, rather wipe each one down with a clean damp cloth. Hull them before weighing them.
675g Granulated sugar (normal sugar)
100ml water to every 1kg of fruit
– Dissolve the sugar and water in a large pot over a gentle heat til 116 degrees celsius
– Skim any scum or foam on the top of the sugar
– Add the prepared strawberries and boil for a few minutes til their juice is released. Remove from the liquid
– Boil the now fruitless syrup until it gets to 116 degrees celsius again
– Return the strawberries to the pot and cook for 5 minutes until the jam becomes a jelly like consistency (at 101 degrees celsius).
– To check if its ready take a teaspoon and pour some on a cold saucer. If the jam sets and doesn’t run, the jam is ready.
– Pour into sterilized jars, seal and store.