Jam Making Rules: Preserving Jams, Marmalades and Conserves


Good home-made jam is a luxury which everyone can enjoy, and indeed in these days when there is plenty of fresh fruit and sugar available, the housewife can have a variety of jams at the end of the season.

Jams may be divided into two categories, jam as we know it and conserves.

Conserves, or preserves as they are sometimes called, were much in vogue-over 100 years ago when fruit bottling was little known, and were made by preserving whole or sliced fruit in syrup. Conserves were eaten, as they are abroad today, with a spoon, rather than spread on bread and butter.

The consistency of a good conserve is, as a rule, a little more syrupy than the ordinary jam and sweeter and richer in flavour.

As in most branches of cooking, certain rules must be observed when making jam in order to get a good result. They are simple and if read before starting the recipes, jam-making should be successful.


1.   Use dry, barely ripe fruit and either loaf (preserving) sugar or granulated sugar, as this helps the colour and the keeping power of the preserves.

2.   Wash or wipe the fruit according to the kind, and pick it over.

English: Making blueberry jam. A woman stirs b...

English: Making blueberry jam. A woman stirs blueberries in a pot after sugar and pectin have been added. They’re really starting to cook now. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3.   Warm the sugar before adding it to the boiling fruit, as this prevents lowering the temperature and consequent overcooking of the jam. Soft fruit gathered fresh from the garden needs less preliminary cooking than bought fruit.

4.    When the sugar is completely dissolved, but not before, boil briskly, stirring gently and slowly until the jam sets when tested. Boiling too long darkens the colour and spoils the flavour of the jam. To test the jam, remove the pan from the heat and put a little on a plate and cool it quickly. Run the little finger through the centre and if the jam is ready it will crinkle slightly and remain in two separate portions. It will also form a drop on the finger which will not fall.

5.   Skim the jam if necessary towards the end of cooking only, as continuous skimming is unnecessary and very wasteful.

6.   Have the jam jars perfectly clean, dry and warm before filling, and fill quite full to allow for shrinkage. In the case of strawberries or cherries, to avoid the fruit rising, leave to stand in the pan 20 to 30 minutes to thicken. Stir up and then pour into the jam jars.

7.   Wipe the jars with a cloth wrung out in very hot water. Tie down, label, and store in a cool, dry place.

8.   The setting power depends on the amount of pectin in the fruit being used. This is a natural gum-like substance and is found only in small quantities in strawberries, cherries, raspberries and vegetable marrow, but is plentiful in black currants, red currants, gooseberries, damsons and apples.

9.   The amount of pectin in any fruit is always greater when the fruit is slightly under-ripe.

10.  When using fruit with a very low pectin content, it is advisable to use one of the following ingredients to be certain that the jam will set:

(a)  The acid juice of gooseberries, apples or red currants.

(b)  Commercially prepared pectin.

(c)  Tartaric or citric acid added either in powder form dissolved in a little water, or the latter in the form of lemon juice.


Mildew May Be Caused By:

1.    Using wet, cold jars.

2.    Covering when neither hot nor cold.

3.    Insufficient sealing when covering.

4.    Storing in a damp place.

Crystallization May Be Caused By:

1.    Using too much sugar.

2.    Allowing the jam to boil before all the sugar has dissolved.

3.    Too much stirring when boiling.

4.    Leaving uncovered too long.

Fermentation May Be Caused By:

1.    Insufficient boiling.

2.    Using too little sugar.

3.    Storing in a warm place.


The most important piece of equipment is the preserving pan. This may be of copper or aluminium. On the whole the latter is the most useful as both jams and chutneys can be made in it. Two preserving pans are ideal, one smaller than the other, for small batches of fruit or jelly.

Glass jam jars of good quality. Small 4- to 8-oz honey jars. These have metal covers and are particularly suitable for special jellies—mint, rowan, and so on.

A jam funnel or filling funnel. These are 4 to 5 in. across at the top with a 1-1/2in. to 2-in. tube and are extremely useful for putting the jam or jelly into the jars. They prevent stickiness on the outside of the jars and avoid any possibility of scalding.

Large wooden spoons, kept especially for jam or chutney. Wooden spoons can be bought with a notch in the handle to catch on the side of the pan and so stop the spoon from sliding into the jam.

Jam spoons have a wide bowl and may be bought in varying sizes.

Jam covers in Cellophane, parchment, etc., and wax tissue for laying on the surface of the jam itself.

Rubber bands or fine string for tying down.

Labels. The pots should be clearly labelled with the date of making. Proper covering and labelling adds a great deal to the attractiveness of the jam or jelly.

A flannel jelly bag or a piece of linen for straining fruit for jelly-making.

A jelly stand is a help, particularly if a jelly bag is used.

A nylon sieve for fruit purees.

Butter muslin or cheese cloth.

A sugar thermometer.

21. March 2013 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Jam Making | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Jam Making Rules: Preserving Jams, Marmalades and Conserves


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