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Jams and Jellies explained, the only 2 recipes you will ever need.

August 3, 2012

This years Jams so far

What are the most important factors when making jam or jelly? Flavour, whether or not it sets and also whether or not it preserves the fruit.

The flavour is pretty self explanatory, use raspberries and it will taste like raspberries, use spices with the fruit and it will have a spiced flavour etc. so think of a flavour you want, it can be simple or complicated. I prefer simple Jams, too many ingredients and the flavours will blend together producing a bit of an indistinct taste.

Setting can be tricky, it relies on a substance called pectin, too much and you will have a very solid set, too little and you end up with a juice. Pectin naturally occurs in the cell walls of fruit and in the core. Generally the fruits with harder and thicker skins contain larger amounts and those with thinner and softer skins contain less. Apples, Currants, Damsons, Quinces, Gooseberries, Guavas, Plums and Citrus fruit all contain large amounts of pectin so set relativity readily. Soft fruits like Strawberries, Blackberries, Elderberries, Figs, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes and Cherries all contain low levels of pectin. A combination of a high pectin fruit like Apples with a low pectin fruit like Blackberries will produce a jam that sets much easier than just Blackberries alone, hence why Apple and Blackberry are so often paired together. If using fruits with a low pectin count then either high pectin fruit, a pectin stock or Jam Sugar can be added to bring the count up. To tell whether a Jam/Jelly will set, you must either use a jam thermometer and watch until 105°C is reached or place a plate into the freezer before beginning the Jam making. When the plate is chilled and the Jam/Jelly has been boiled for the right amount of time, take the plate and place a teaspoon of Jam/Jelly onto it, leave it 30 seconds and the push it with your finger, if it ‘squidges’ *see image below) then it is ready to jar!

A final trick is to add Lemon Juice, it improves the flavour, brings up the pectin count and also the Citric Acid acts as a preservative. Every single one of my Jam recipes unfailingly contains Lemon Juice.

This one passed the squidge test


– Jelly Recipe –

Gooseberry Jelly

High pectin fruit or 50%/50% mix high and low pectin fruit // Lemon Juice // Caster Sugar

  1. There’s no need to stone, peel or core the fruit, simply simmer it with roughly a tenth to one quarter of its volume of Water until soft, more water for hard fruit dry fruit, less for soft juicy ones. This should take 15-30 minutes, afterwards mash thoroughly.
  2. Pour into a muslin bag/jelly cloth/tea towel and suspend over a bowl and let all the juices drip out overnight.
  3. Measure the volume of juice produced. Pour into a heavy bottomed saucepan and add 450g of Sugar and the juice of one Lemon for every 570mls of liquid.
  4. Put on a high heat and stir to avoid burning the sugar, bring to a rapid boil for 10 minutes, check to see if it passes the squidge test or the temperature is above 105°C, if not, boil another 5 minutes before checking again and repeating until done.
  5. Pour it into sterile jars and seal!


– Jam Recipe –

Raspberry Jam

Equal weights of Fruit &  Caster Sugar or Jam Sugar depending on the pectin level of the fruit you are using // Lemon

  1. Remove any parts of the fruit you do not want in the final jam (with the exception of small seeds) and do any coring or peeling you may want done now, then weigh the fruit. Measure out and reserve an equal weight of Sugar.
  2. Put the fruit into a large heavy bottomed saucepan and add a small amount of Water, 2-5 tablespoons.
  3. Add the juice of one Lemon for roughly every 800g of fruit being used.
  4. Bring to the boil then lower the heat to a simmer until the fruit is soft 5-15 minutes depending on the type used.
  5. If a fruit with lots of small seeds has been used, for example raspberries, force 50-100% of the pulp through a sieve to reduce or completely remove the seeds. If this removes a lot of mass then reweigh the pulp now
  6. Add in the Sugar now and maximise the heat, stirring rapidly to dissolve it all, boil for 10 minutes. Get it to 105°C or a point where it passes the squidge test, if it’s not ready, boil another 5 minutes before checking again and repeating until done.
  7. Pour it into sterile jars and seal!

Enjoy, and remember that you can experiment as much as you like with these recipes. As long as you stick to the ratios given then it will work!!

  1. Malvina permalink

    Hi. I’ve made guava jelly, and it appeared very thin. I first covered berries with water and boiled it, cooled it down, mashed it through the colander ( I wanted it be more like jam, with its pulp in it). I then boiled it for about 40 minutes with sugar and lemon juice and poured it into glass jars, and sealed them. I thought that it would thicken while cooling down, but it did not. Please, tell me what I can do now. May be I should cook it with tapioca flour? Thank you Malvina

    • When you are boiling it you need to do the cold plate test to check when it is finally ready to set, some fruits will take a long time, especially if you use very ripe ones (as they will have a higher water content). I don’t think adding tapioca flour would help too much, it would make the liquid thicker, but it wouldn’t help it set, which is what you really want to happen.

      I haven’t actually made a jelly from guava personally, so I don’t know if it has any quirks, but I know it has a high pectin content so it should set well. Make sure when you boil it it is at the hottest temperature it can get to, stir a lot, add another few spoons of lemon juice (and maybe even some chopped lemon rind) and do the plate test every 7 minutes or so until it finally starts to set on the plate and then bottle.

      Good luck!

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