Real Men Sow

4 Reasons to Make Jam and 6 Tips for Making Jam

There are lots of juicy plums and greengages on the trees all of a sudden, which can only mean one thing…

…its jam making season!

I recently made a small batch of damson jam (pictured) with fruit from a nearby tree, and it reminded me of all the reasons I love making jam. And having not written a list post for a while, I thought what better opportunity to put one together.

I like list posts. They’re easy to read, punchy and interesting to write, but for a change I’m going to split the list in to two: 4 Reasons to Make Jam, and 6 Tips for Making Jam.

First Up, It’s 5 Reasons to Make Jam

1. Jam is something that us amateurs can genuinely do better than the professionals.
As Delia says ‘…for all the choice available (in the shops), not a lot of it measures up to home-made. No manufacturer has ever been able to make Seville Orange Marmalade with all the chunkiness, depth and tangy flavour of the home-made,’ she adds.

I’m not going to argue with Delia, and that’s not just because I’m a Norwich supporter.

2. You Can Put More Fruit In!
I was pretty surprised at the lack of fruit that goes into commercially made jam. Even Wilkins Jam from nearby Tiptree only use 55g of fruit for every 100g of sugar in their strawberry jam. Once I’d tasted a 1:1 fruit ratio, I never went back.

3. Saving Money
Homemade jam is a real money saver, especially if you can get hold of the fruit for free. The damson I made last week cost me roughly 18p a jar, compared to the £1.99 for the Wilkins alternative.

4. Jam Does Some Good
I always harboured this idea that jam can be a force for good. If you have control over the ingredients, you might want to use Fair Trade sugar, support a local producer by buying their fruit, or use up fruit that might otherwise go to waste.

I’ve been making jam for about 5 years now, and I like to think I’ve come a long way. The picture is of my first attempt that I somehow managed to treacle-ise to a point where a spoon happily stood up in it. Since then however, I’ve gone on make different types of jam regularly, from the tricky pectin-low rhubarbs and strawberries, to the easier plums and greengages.

I made 80 odd jars for wedding favours this year, and also given lots of jars away to friends. Being one of life’s dreamers, I once even decided that making jam was my future. A hundred jars later, and Jono’s Man Jam was born, and ready to debut at my local Farmers Market.

Unfortunately, we went on holiday instead, and I kind of lost momentum. We ate a lot of jam that year.

Anyway, I’ve learnt a lot about making jam in that time. I thought about writing The Rough Guide to Jam, but there are already plenty of great guides, like the Delia Smith preserving section on her website and John Harrison’s at www.allotment.org.uk.

5 Tips For Making Jam
Other than the art of actually making jam, these are a few tips I’ve picked up on my preserving adventure.

1. Get a jam funnel
If you’re at all clumsy and messy like I am, a jam funnel is a God send. They sit inside the rim of the jar and stop the sugary mixture dripping all down the side and onto your worktop.

2. Make the jam runnier
After burning a couple of batches, I began making my jam a little runnier than normal, by erring on the side of caution with the setting point. I found the jam tasted much better, and the flavour of fruit was much more prominent.

3. Don’t be afraid to reboil the jam

If the jam doesn’t set properly, let it cool and then reboil it. If the jam was a computer, this would be like turning it off and on again. The jam is effectively reset, and you can boil up again.

4. Use big fruit to save money
For best bang for buck, use big fruits like plums and greengages.

5. Mix low pectin with high pectin
When using fruit with low pectin, I sneak in some higher pectin-content fruit to help the set. Apples are good, and I also like to use blackcurrants in with rhubarb.

6. Keep it tarte!
Experiment with using less sugar for a tarter flavour. After messing about with this, I decided that sweeter isn’t always better!

If this is year is your first at attempting jam, let me know how you get on, and if you’ve got any good tips, then I’d love to hear them.

Tagged , , , ,

Related Posts

Sign up to receive a RMS weekly bite size summary, featuring all posts from the previous seven days, hints and tips and other interesting snippets from the world of veg growing.

5 Comments

  1. Rebecca BeachAugust 21, 2011 at 8:53 pmReply

    I made my first batch of Marrow & Ginger jam this weekend. It was my first ever attempt at jam & is far too thick. Tastes alright though & hasn’t put me off having another go :-)

    • Jono

      JonoAugust 23, 2011 at 6:27 amReplyAuthor

      Definitely keep at it Rebecca, its well worth it. If you can get some plums, they’re a great place to start.

      I use my marrows in chutneys too, they help to bulk it up.

      Louisa – know what you mean about marmalade. I bought some Seville oranges last year and ended up doing something else with them as I just couldn’t be bothered with all the faff! A big vat of jam is just the job for me too. :)

  2. louisa @ TheReallyGoodLifeAugust 22, 2011 at 9:28 amReply

    I’ve been making jams for a few years now and would agree with these reasons and tips – good lists, Jono :)

    If you don’t have a jam funnel, it’s worth improvising – the cut-off top of a juice/pop bottle is sufficient and it really, really helps reduce the jam-everywhere situation.

    And another thing I’ve learnt: I am never, ever, ever (or at least not this year) making marmalade again. Compared to curds and jam, it took ages to make and was even messier than normal. And it was only after I finished it that I realised I don’t even particularly like marmalade. I’ll stick to my plum jam any day :)

  3. NickieAugust 28, 2011 at 10:38 amReply

    Fab tips there. We’ve just acquired our allotment this year and it was very unloved. There has been a lot of fruit growing wild and I was determined to do something with it, so made jam for the very first time with the blackcurrants. After reading up it seemed the safest and easiest fruit to start with.

    I love it and want to experiment more. A friend offered the tip of going to the market at the end of the day and offering to buy up all the “damaged” fruit for making jam with. I might try that at some point.

    I will have to invest in a bigger pan that has a slight pouring lip on it though. Our kitchen looked like a scene from a horror movie at one point.

  4. AlisonSeptember 21, 2011 at 8:27 pmReply

    I made my first jam this year and now I can’t stop! So far I’ve made courgette & pineapple, bramble jelly, damson jam,and two sorts of courgette chutney. All of them from stuff I’ve grown myself, been given by work mates or foraged. Am deciding whether to make jam/jelly or chutney with the apples sloes rosehips and elderberries I’ve foraged tonight. I suppose I’ll have to stop when I run out of jars.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope.

However, three years on, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

Sign Here for Weekly Updates!

Sign up to receive a RMS weekly bite size summary, featuring all posts from the previous seven days, hints and tips and other interesting snippets from the world of veg growing.

Allotment Cakes for the Weekend

  • An Allotment Cake for the Weekend #12 – Lemon Curd & Blueberry Loaf Cake
  • An Allotment Cake For the Weekend #11 – Apple and Cinnamon Flapjacks
  • An Allotment Cake For the Weekend #10 – Fresh Ginger and Apple Cake
  • Good Food Magazine Marrow and Pecan Cake
  • A Rhubarbey Roundup, and Whatever Happened to Allotment Cakes for the Weekend?
  • (Not) An Allotment Cake for the Weekend #7 Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream
  • Allotment Cakes for the Weekend #7 Waitrose Rhubarb, Macadamia and White Chocolate Cake
  • Allotment Cakes for the Weekend #6 – Carl Legge’s Rhubarb and Polenta Cake

Saving £500 a year!

During 2011, I kept a diary of how much money I save from growing my own fruit and vegetables. After totalling all my outgoings, I saved approximately £500 over the year. I made a spreadsheet to calculate these savings - it’s nothing too complicated, as I’m no Excel guru, but hopefully someone else will find it as useful (and strangely fun) as me. For more info, visit my Money Saving Experiment page by clicking here.

Archive

The Veggy Social

As Featured In…

Flickr Stream