Two of the most frequently raised concerns people have when it comes to preserving are “How do I know when it’s ready?” and “How, and why do I have to sterile the jars?” Here are some suggestions to help with both of these questions!
Techniques for testing your jams
There’s nothing worse than runny jam. The situation can easily be avoided by properly testing your jam while you still have the option of cooking it a little more. It’s always a good idea to take the preserving pan off the heat whilst you test the jam so that it doesn’t overcook during testing.
Try one of these tests to ensure a perfect set:
Flake test: Dip a clean wooden spoon into the mixture in the pan. Remove it and, holding it above the pan, twirl the spoon to cool the mixture slightly. Allow the mixture to fall off the spoon. If the drops run together and form flakes that hang off the side of the spoon, the mixture has reached setting point.
Cold saucer test: Chill a couple of small plates in the fridge or freezer. Put a small blob of mixture onto one of them and tilt to spread it thinly. Leave it to cool for a minute, then push the mixture around with your finger. If it wrinkles, it’s reached setting point.
Thermometer test: Stir the mixture in the pan. Dip the thermometer into hot water before dipping it into the pan. If the temperature reaches 105ºC/220ºF, setting point should have been reached. Double check using the saucer test to be certain.
Properly sterilising your jars, no matter what type you are using, is an essential part of your preserve making. All your hard work will be lost if your jam is exposed to any contaminants.
There are three methods for heat sterilising your jars.
Option one: preheat your oven to Gas Mark 3 (170ºC/325ºF). Stand the jars on a baking sheet, preventing them from touching, and heat in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and fill with hot jam.
Option two: place the jars in a deep pan and cover with boiling water. Bring to the boil and boil for 10 minutes. Remove with tongs and either fill with hot jam or leave to cool as before.
Option 3: It is also possible to sterilise jars in the microwave. Half fill your jars with water and heat on full power until the water boils. Using a jar lifter, swill the water around the jars. Leave the jars to drain upside-down on a kitchen towel or clean tea towel.
If you have any other questions or concerns about jam or preserve making, please let us know, or ask in your local Steamer store – we are here to help!