When you are just starting out on your jam making journey, there can seem to be a wide array of ‘essential’ items that you are encouraged to purchase. Whilst many of these definitely do make jam making easier if you are doing it regularly, many small batches of jam can easily be made using your normal pans and tools. That said, there are a few items that it would be well worth considering if you are thinking about jam making more frequently.
We have put together a ‘top 10’ list of items that will help your jam making easier – whilst you might be able to get by without them, they will improve your chances of a successful batch time and time again. We have a starter set available which contains all the basic items to get you started if you want to dive straight in!
Traditionally made from unlined copper, preserving pans are now more commonly from stainless steel. A good preserving pan is twice as wide as it is deep to maximise the exposure all of its contents to the heat source of the hob. This allows rapid boiling of great volumes of fruit and sugar for jams and jellies so the pectin in the fruit can develop and produce jams or jellies that set beautifully each time. Most have a loop handle which reaches over the top of the pan and a helper handle at the side to allow hot jam to be poured easily into the awaiting jars.
Not just for jam – these large pans are also great when entertaining large numbers of people as you can use them as a large saucepan, or they are the perfect size for boiling your Christmas Ham!
You’ve spent ages preparing your fruit, cooking it until it is just so – the last thing you want to do is spill it all over your worktop! The easiest way to transfer your precious preserves from pan to jar is to use a wide mouthed jam funnel. The broad stable funnel makes for safe pouring of very hot jams into their jars. The loop handle allows easy movement from jar to jar. Some models feature a non-stick coating so that not a drop is wasted.
A precise and carefully controlled boil is essential if you want your jam to set properly. Experienced jammers claim that they can judge everything by eye, for the rest of us a jam thermometer is pretty essential kit. Many preserving thermometers provide extra assistance by having the important temperatures for all stages of the preserving process clearly marked. Preserving thermometers have a clip attached for easy fixing to the side of your preserving pan.
Perfectly clear jellies require proper straining. A conical straining bag allows the juice to run clear. Press the fruit at the top and the force is multiplied at the tip to push out every drop of precious juice. Most bags have loops to suspend them over large pots whilst the juice drains. Other models come with a frame to support the bag over the pan. Simply suspend the bag over a bowl and add your fruit, sit back and let gravity do the work for you!
I know it’s tempting to push the mixture through with the back of a spoon to speed the process up – but please resist doing this! This will cause your jelly to become cloudy and spoil its final appearance. You want it to be glowingly jewel coloured, right?
Whether they’re coming straight from the oven after sterilisation or full of piping hot jam or marmalade, handling jam jars isn’t easy. Purpose made jar lifting callipers make the process easy and safe.
The Women's Institute will disqualify any jam from the competition that doesn’t have a proper seal. Wax discs sit on the surface of the jam when the jar is full to create a hygienic barrier between the jam any moulds in the air.
Jam Pot Covers Acetate jam pot covers cling to the top of a warm jam jar and make an effective seal, add an elastic band for extra security. Decorative paper or cotton covers add a touch of country cottage chic and turn a humble jar of jam into a beautiful gift.
At Steamer Trading we stock a huge variety of different shapes and sizes of jar. From tiny treats to monstrous pots, we are bound to have a screw top or clip top jar to suit every need. Preserving enthusiasts know that nothing beats the clip top preserving jars for keeping bottled fruit fresh, and they instantly transform any homemade preserves into a fabulous gift! Available in sizes ranging from a tiny 125ml to giant 3ltr models.
Classic Kilner jars evoke strong memories of childhood in many of us. Still available at Steamer Trading after all these years they have a two piece lid made up of a flat disc which forms a tight seal with the jar and a threaded metal ring to lock everything in place.
The Women’s Institute state that jam labels should be ‘plain, neat and straight and of suitable size for the container stating the contents and the day and year of making’. Whether it’s recording your child’s first efforts or mother’s tenth batch of the year... just be sure to put it on straight!
But I have to take issue with the WI on the label being plain – why not make your jam look as fabulous as you can? Unless you are entering your local WI competition, let your imagination go wild!
A traditional preserving spoon has a wooden hook or large notch on the back to stop it from falling into the pan of bubbling jam. Use it to gently skim any scum from the top of your boiling fruit which would make the jam go cloudy. A setting spoon has is a wooden spoon with a broader than usual handle. The handle has a groove carved along its length. Tip a small amount of jam backwards from the bowl of the spoon and watch how it sets as it flows down the groove to see if you’ve cooked it enough
It’s vital that you don’t over or under cook your jam if you want a perfect set. A kitchen timer is a vital piece of kit. Wind up models usually measure up to 59 minutes whilst digital ones can time much longer periods. A digital timer is accurate to the second. When you set your wind up timer be sure to wind it up fully to set the spring. Turn it back to the timing that you require and it will have enough energy to ring long and loud.