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Jamming is preserving fruit in sugar. Jam is fruit cooked in sugar. There isn’t anything fresh, low-calorie or low-carb about jam, let alone keto or other paleo-nonsense. We eat jam because it’s sweet, not because it has massive nutritional value – it doesn’t.
So don’t believe the labels saying ‘no sugar added’ or ‘low sugar content’. Such jam will either have horrifying chemicals in it or honey, maple syrup or concentrated fruit juice, which – you guessed – contain sugars.
Fruit and sugar in more or less equal ratio – that’s jam. You can add some enhancements, see below, and less sugar to fruit high in pectins: pears, apples, quinces, gooseberries; i.e. the less delicious jamming labels. Cook it down more or less, depending if you prefer your jam runnier or harder. If you sit the fruit in sugar and then let it dissolve slowly, it will firm up the fruit chunks; if you rapidly bring the lot to the boil, it’ll be mushy and spready.
I’d thought I’d be smart – and add way less sugar than the universally prescribed, roughly equal amount. Not so smart – unless you like your jam dripping off your scone in watery trickles. The exercise ended in re-boiling and re-potting the lot so, though delicious end product, it was major hassle.
So perhaps like with meringues, candy floss, toffee and caramel sauce – if you don’t want sugar, don’t eat jam.
strawberry jamServings: makes 4 x 1lb jars; halve the fuit and sugar amounts for 2 jarsTime: about an hour plus macerating overnight
- 1kg (over 2 pounds) strawberries
- 900g (2 pounds) jamming sugar
- 1 large lemon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- black pepper
- a knob (1 oz., 10g) cold butter
This quantity of fruit will make 4 x 1lb jars. Have them ready, washed and with well-fitting lids.
The night before prepare the fruit: hull the strawberries but don’t wash them; simply wipe them with a paper towel. If you prefer your jam chunky, leave the berries whole, otherwise halve or quarter them.
Layer the fruit in a large preserving pan or a stockpot, covering them with the sugar. Cover and leave overnight, giving it one good stir last thing that night.
The next day put the pan over very low heat for about 15 minutes to allow sugar to dissolve. Check by stirring to the bottom – if you can’t feel the crystals, it’s ready. In the meantime scrape a few lemon peel ribbons with a sharp knife and juice the lemon. Add the peel and the juice to the strawberries with the vanilla extract and 7-10 twists of a black pepper grinder; black pepper enhances the strawberry flavour.
Bring the jam to a vigorous boil over high heat and keep boiling (watch for splatter!) for about 20 minutes. Test on a clean plate: drop a blob of jam and let it cool completely. Pinch it between your fingers: if you’re almost able to lift a droplet, it’s ready. If you prefer your jam runny, boil it only for 10 minutes. If you like it really thick, keep on for 5 more minutes or until you’re happy with the consistency.
Take the pan off the heat, stir in the butter to disperse scum, and let it stand for 15 minutes. During that time sterilise the jars in very low oven (80C).
Fill the jars to just below the rim; jam funnel is very handy to avoid major mess. Twist the lids on and let them cool completely before storing.