Follow GetSeedy! on Twitter
Follow GetSeedy! on Facebook
Subscribe to the GetSeedy! rss feed

Let’s get jammin’…

I made my first jam in 2009. We’d had a bumper crop of Greengages, and as making wine a couple of years previously had been just too time-consuming, I was keen to try something different. I made seven batches of jam from the fruit and we still have a couple of jars maturing in a corner of the kitchen!

That first year I used whatever equipment I had to hand in the kitchen, mainly a very large stockpot and a load of second-hand marmalade jars from my friend Katie. However, last year I invested in a kit from Jam Jar Shop. It’s the best investment I made, as it’s quicker to make the jam and pouring it into the jars is a lot less messy. I wouldn’t recommend you part with 60+ quid unless you’re serious about making jam year on year, but if that’s your plan, then go for it and treat yourself to stainless steel – you’ll thank yourself later…

Anyway, this year I decided to try my hand at jelly as well as some jam. The reason? I had a stash of Damsons and Sloes in the freezer left over from various gin-making extravaganzas the previous two years. I figured jelly would be a better bet, as the fruit had been destroyed by its six-month internment in gin and it would have made for a strange textured jam with all that mushy fruit.

  • What is jelly? Basically it’s jam with the fruit pulp strained out.
  • Does it take longer to make? A little, yes, as you do have to wait for the fruit to strain (2-12 hours).
  • Is it difficult? No way! If you can make jam, you can definitely make jelly.
  • What if you’ve never made jam? It’s just like a fun chemistry lesson, or a potions lesson at Hogwarts without Snape. Experiment, have a go and have some fun!

I had a lot of fun making jelly, so much so, that I ended up making loads of different types. Here’s how I made them, in words and pictures:

Simmering fruit to make jelly

Step 1: Simmer the fruit

Wash and weigh your fruit and then put it into a lidded pan with enough water to cover. This works out at about 600ml per 1kg of plums, other amounts will apply to different fruit (I recommend Pam Corbin’s excellent River Cottage Handbook No.2 ‘Preserves’ for figures). Then, simmer gently for about 40 minutes to one hour until the fruit is very soft and pulpy.

Once it’s there, boil up a piece of muslin or a jelly bag in a pan of water, then hang over a bowl (I use a jelly straining kit for this, but there are all manner of strange ways to hang your bag, many of which involve an inverted stool) and pour in your fruit.

Liquid being collected from strained fruit

Step 3: Collecting the strained liquid

Straining fruit to make jelly

Step 2: Strain the fruit through a bag

Leave the fruit to strain for 2-12 hours (just leaving it overnight is simplest). The liquid should be free from bits, but if not, you can filter through muslin a second time.

Liquid coming to the boil (jelly-making)

Step 5: Bring the liquid slowly to the boil

A beaker of collected liquid for making jelly

Step 4: Measure the collected liquid

Measure the collected liquid so that you can work out how much sugar you’ll need (450g for every 600ml of liquid) and either store for later, or pour straight into your jam pan and set on a low heat to gradually bring to the boil. (I had to store the liquid on a few occasions. It does remarkably well sitting in the fridge for many days. One batch I left for about a week!)

At this point you need to sort out your jars. The number you need will depend on the size and the amount of liquid you’ve collected, but as a rough guide, 1litre of liquid will make approximately six 225g jars (again, I recommend Pam Corbin’s ‘Preserves’ book for more details). Wash and rinse them well and put them in an oven at about 100°C to dry and sterilise while you’re making the jelly.

Adding butter to liquid (making jelly)

Step 7: Add butter and stir

Adding sugar to a pan of liquid (making jelly)

Step 6: Add sugar and stir

Once the liquid is just starting to boil, you will need to add the sugar.Keep stirring until all the sugar dissolves and to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom. (I also add a knob of butter along with the sugar to dissipate the ‘scum’ from the top of the liquid at the end of the process, but this is optional.)

Boiling liquid (making jelly)

Step 9: Bring the liquid to a roiling boil

Stirring liquid (making jelly)

Step 8: Stir until the sugar is dissolved

Saucers in the fridge (making jelly)

Step 11: Put some saucers in the fridge

A kitchen clock showing 9.15pm (making jelly)

Step 10: Take note of the time

When it’s all dissolved, stop stirring and wait for the liquid to really get boiling (also known as a roiling boil), make a note of the time and put a couple of saucers in the fridge to cool (you’ll need these to test the liquid to see if it’s set).

A wooden spoon with dripping liquid (making jelly)

Step 13: The flake test

A kitchen clock showing 9.25pm (making jelly)

Step 12: Time to check on the liquid-jelly

Once 10 minutes have passed, turn down the heat and do the ‘flake test’. Do this by dipping a clean wooden spoon in to the liquid, twizzling it round a few times above the pan and then seeing if the liquid runs off in ‘curtains’. If it does, then it’s probably at setting point, if not, then you need to turn up the heat again and let it boil for another couple of minutes.

Jars of Damson Jelly

Step 15: Jars of jelly

Testing to see if jelly has set (making jelly)

Step 14: The crinkle test

You can also test by placing some of the liquid onto one of the saucers in your fridge, leave it there for a minute or two and then carry out the ‘crinkle test’. This involves pushing your finger through the liquid. If it just passes through, then it’s not set, but if the liquid crinkles up in front of your finger, it’s done. Alternatively you can use a jam thermometer. I have one and do use it, but still like to perform the other two tests, as they’re fun!

With a positive test for setting, turn off the heat, get your jars out of the oven, bottle up and leave to cool!

A note about what to cover your jam/jelly with. I use lids for a few simple reasons: they’re easy to handle and quick to administer. I’m sure there’s a whole group of purist jam-makers out there ready to extol the virtues of greaseproof paper and little plastic discs held on by rubber bands, but I find the whole process messy and unnecessary. Plus, you don’t get the joy that comes from hearing the lid go pop as the jar seals itself. I’ve had jam last for years without so much as a speck of mould when using lids, whereas rubber bands and plastic just doesn’t cut it. These days you can get so many lovely cute lids for your jam jars, it seems a shame not to!

A collection of jars containing different jams and jellies

Lots and lots of lovely jams and jellies

A few scoops of Damson Jelly in a pot

Step 16: Enjoy your jelly!

What you do with your jelly next is up to you! I love it as an alternative to Jam, especially on scones with clotted cream…yum!

As I mentioned earlier, I got a bit carried away with the excitement of jam and jelly-making this year and made quite a collection, including:

  • Cherry-plum jam (with vanilla)
  • Greengage jam (with and without vanilla)
  • Cherry-plum jelly (with vanilla)
  • Hedgerow jelly (with ginned sloes and apples – no vanilla!)
  • Ginned Damson jelly, and
  • Greengage jelly (with vanilla).
A jar of jelly which has won second prize

Prize-winning Hedgerow Jelly!

A jar of jelly which has won second prize

Prize-winning Cherry-plum Jelly!

A jar of jelly which has won a Highly Commended award

Highly Commended Ginned Damson Jelly!

I also put some of my jams and jellies into the Farmborough Flower Show on 3 September. There was stiff competition in the jam section, so I made no headway with my cherry-plum and greengage varieties, but I did win second and third prize with my Hedgerow and Cherry-plum jellies and a Highly Commended for my Ginned Damson jelly! Not bad for a by-product of my yummy, scrummy Damson Gin!

More on my Flower Show exploits next time, but for now, let me know what exciting jams and jellies you’ve made this year and whether you’ve won any prizes? Tips and tricks also appreciated, just leave a comment via the link at the end of this post.

Share this:
Twitter Facebook Google Stumbleupon Digg Email
This entry was posted in Experimentation, How to..., Results! and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Get More! Get Seedy!

    For news, updates and a lot more fun, follow on Twitter and Facebook, subscribe to the RSS feed, or join the mailing list...
FREE!!! Three factsheets about potatoes, veg and seeds, just for you...     Sign up & download now! »