Saturday 7 February 2009

Jam-Making Reflections by a Novice

When my mum visited for my birthday afternoon tea, she left a bag of peaches and nectarines for me. I left them for a day or two, with good intentions. Finally I discovered one had grown a nasty black beard so I knew I had to use them or lose them! I bravely decided to make jam.

It was a brave move because I am a total novice when it comes to jam. I have managed to do a bit of chutney making this summer, which has helped me feel a little bit more comfortable with sterilising jars but I still feel intimidated by jam. The last time I remember making it is in home economics classes at school. We learnt all the things that could go wrong. Plus I am not a huge fan of sweet things. My jam of preference is St Dalfours from France which is sugar-free and not too sweet.

So I will tell you now that it wasn’t the greatest success. I thought the jam I made was too sweet, I cracked a jar by pouring boiling water over cold jars, I burnt my tongue tasting the jam (but not badly), I didn’t do a good job of removing scum from the boiling jam, the jam was a little runny.

But I am posting about it because I want to make jam (as good as St Dalfours) and so I need to start by recording my experiences. I hope one day to serve scones with home-made jam and cream like my mum does. I even quite enjoy some jam and cheese on toast. But at the moment we have some of my mum’s home made apricot jam which is quite tart and preferable to the sweet Peach and Pineapple Jam that I made.

As a novice, it probably would be helpful to use a proper tried and tested recipe but I had peaches, nectarines and a pineapple and there wasn’t a recipe which matched the quantities I had. I didn’t have much in the way of citrus fruit so I used a lime which was lingering in the fruit bowl. I find that looking up different recipes gives a feel for what I need to do – Nigella, Rose Elliot and some of my older Australian cookbooks gave some insight but required a lot of sugar. I liked Vikki Leng’s recipes which are lower in sugar but she says they don’t last so long and I didn’t have the ingredients.

I have written what I did below. It is edible but a bit sweet for my liking. The colour looks right but it could probably be a bit less runny. If I was Nigella I might wax lyrical about golden orbs of pineapple in an amber liquid. But I am not going to kid myself. The recipe needs tweaking but is a start on the jam odyssey.

Peach and Pineapple Jam
Makes 2½ small jars

600g or 5 peaches and/or nectarines (preferably orange flesh)
1 small pineapple (about 750g with skin and stalk)
2 cups sugar
Juice of one large lime (or medium lemon)

Stone and dice peaches. Trim and dice pineapple. Place in a large saucepan with a little water (just a little on the bottom of the pan) and simmer about 10 minutes til fruit is tender. Gradually add sugar while the fruit mixture is still simmering. Add lime or lemon juice. Simmer a further 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Use a metal spoon to skim off scum.

Cool a small spoonful on a saucer (Nigella puts her saucers in the freezer so jam cools quicker). Jam is ready when it wrinkles when you push a finger through the cooled spoonful. Mine never got to the wrinkle stage – I did simmer it longer than I intended but I finally thought it was an ok consistency when I cooled a little on a saucer.

Remove from heat and set jam aside for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, simmer jam jars in hot water for 5-10 minutes. Using rubber gloves and tongs, drain jars. Fill hot jars with hot jam and immediately screw on lids to seal.

On the stereo:
Adaptogen - Gagarin


  1. Having never made tradtional jams myself, I'd say yours looks pretty good! I've shied away from sterilising jars and just make a small amount which I then store in the fridge until it's gone. So far, that's worked. But now I feel like experimenting with some jars in water baths!

  2. Ever so often I check out books from the library on jam and the like with some grand ideas and then get intimidated and don't give it a go. Great that you went at it. Looks lovely.
    About my favorite is apple butter and I have made that but not with the sterilized jars. I just make small batches and keep in the fridge. Manage to make it good with great cinnamon and no sugar.

  3. Homemade jam is always the best choice :)

  4. Mmmm I'm a big fan of jam (I have it almost every day on my lunch I'm sad to say), but I quite like my jam sweet (probably because I mix it with sunflower seed butter).

    I like less sweet jams too though and this one sounds yummy!

    I'm kind of glad I don't know all the scary things about jam making. When I make it I boil it, plonk it into sterilized jars, (I ALWAYS burn my tongue tasting it), stick it in the fridge and eat away. What you don't know can't hurt you? :P

    I hope you manage to make your perfect recipe :)

  5. Oh I want to have your jam or at least make it, so I can enjoy it also. You have used some of my favourite fruits :)

  6. Good on you for trying to make your own jam. It's hard and quite a skill, especially if you're winging it and don't have a tried and true recipe. I wonder how St Dalfour manage to get it to be so delicious?

  7. Thanks Ricki - a small amount to store in the fridge is how I started out with my chutneys but then I ended up with too much produce and not wanting to waste it!

    Thanks Tanna - that is a good idea - I should see if the library has some helpful books - home made jam seems just right for home made bread

    Thanks Flower

    Thanks Snooky Doodle - totally agree

    Thanks Vegetation - I am sure I could dismiss some of the scary things about jam if I make it often enough - just need a little practice - sounds like you are quite comfortable with it

    Thanks Kiran - they are some of my favourite fruits too - although once I had made it I wondered if they are my favourite fruits for jam???

    Thanks Lorraine - I would like to know St Dalfour's secret - I have looked for a good local equivalent and still not found it - so now I just hope I can work out an alternative I can make at home - would like to try some of the fruit juice concentrates instead of sugar some time

    Thanks Bunches - I think I love pineapple jam too but then I worried it made this jam sweeter - still not sure!

  8. That looks pretty damn good for a jam novice, if yuo ask me. I am also a jam virgin, I'm afraid to admit - and most of it has to do with holy terror as regards the sterilisation of the jars!! I also made chutney over the summer, so hopefully I will have the courage to tackle jams sometime soon...

  9. Thanks Jeanne - I think making chutney is a good start to thinking about making jam - but I haven't kept chutney or jam long enough to know for certain that my sterilising is working - although I hope it is!


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