Monday, 25 January 2010

Jam-making ~ fruit, sugar and water ratios, preparation and miscellaneous notes

This article continues on from the previous one which gives information about the process of jam-making in general.

For jam the ratio I often use is around six parts of prepared fruit to five parts of sugar.  If you're not used to dealing with ratios, consider that if I applied the six to five ratio to six kilos of fruit, I would then use five kilos of sugar.  This may seem excessive, especially when you're measuring it out, but many recipes suggest equal quantities of fruit and sugar, sometimes more.  Tastes differ and it's important to get this right according to your own preference as it does make a considerable difference to the flavour. 

Working out ratios for any quantity of fruit:
Sugar: using the six to five ratio as an example, take the weight of your fruit, divide it by six to get one sixth, and then multiply by five, to get five sixths.  The five-sixths is the amount of sugar you'll need - easy!
Water: my rule of thumb for jam is half a cup of water per kilo of fruit - see below.

GOOSEBERRIES: The only preparation needed for this fruit is topping and tailing and then washing.
    I use six parts of fruit to five parts of sugar. With gooseberries the amount of sugar used is particularly crucial as the flavour is delicate: not enough and tartness over-rides it and too much and the sweetness drowns it out.  
Revised notes from December 2010: Half a cup of water per kilo of fruit is ample as although the fruit seems hard when first put on to cook it rapidly liquefies.  The danger is that it may catch on the bottom before it does so.  This is easily avoided by starting the cooking process by first placing your total of water in the pot and by adding the fruit to it gradually, allowing the fruit to contribute a good portion of its  moisture before adding more.  The fruit will go to a complete mush during the jamming process so this is fine.  This is how I did mine this year and it was the best I've yet made: it set beautifully and is mostly a delicate pinkish jelly.  That it is delicious goes without saying!
Note: Green gooseberries turn a fairly dark pink when cooking.  This is to be expected when making jam but indicates over-cooking if you're making preserves.

RASPBERRIES:  Make as for gooseberry jam. 

I was given a kilo for Christmas (2011) and after we had eaten our fill and they were about to spoil I still had 300 grams left, so having consulted my recipe for gooseberries...

...I decided to use the same method: a ratio of 6 parts of fruit to 5 parts of sugar (in this case, 250 grams),  and just enough water on the bottom of the pot to prevent the fruit from catching before they made their own juice.

In what seemed like next to no time I had a lovely jarful of jam and a little extra in a jam pot!  Perfect colour and as good a flavour as you'd find anywhere!  The fruit is fairly costly though, so this is a special treat.

Raspberry jam on toast.

PLUMS:
(Notes revised, January 2011)
I use a ratio of five parts of plums (with stones and skin still intact) to four parts of sugar.
The ratio of water is half a cup of water per kilo of fruit.
     I don't remove the stones prior to cooking as the plums used have been small and it would be too fiddly.  They float free in the cooking process, and can be removed either by fishing them out with a slotted spoon, or by sieving the pulp.  It's a matter of personal taste if you also remove the skins.  I do.  This does make it quite a long process but I've found the results worth it.
     I start the cooking by placing the total water required in the pot and then gradually add the fruit to it so that the fruit mush can build up slowly as it cooks.
     Once the mush is done you can break the jam making process overnight if you want to but do be sure to keep track of the quantity of fruit you started with so that you know how much sugar you'll need when you set to work on it again!
     Do be sure to remove stones and skins before before adding the sugar to avoid wastage as well as all-enveloping stickiness!
     I've found that discarded stones and skins amount to about a fifth of the original weight of the fruit, meaning that essentially the fruit to sugar ratio is about one to one, which is to say, equal in quantity.
     When the sugar is being added take care not to let the sugar sit on the bottom of the pot as it can rapidly caramelise which will spoil your jam.  If it catches, empty the pot into a clean one and continue on from there.  If left it will spoil the flavour of your delicious jam.
     Once the sugar has dissolved the heat can be turned up as the jam needs to boil briskly before it will be ready to set.  Test for readiness in the usual way.
    
APRICOTS:
(Notes revised, January 2011) 
I have an aversion to finding large pieces of fruit in jam or indeed any preserves, so I cut the fruit into the sized pieces that please me, removing the stones and any blemished skin, weigh the fruit,  and then work out how much sugar I'll need.  

Sugar: I usually use a ratio of six parts of fruit (once de-stoned) to five parts of sugar, however, the sweetness of fruit does vary so experimentation can be important as indicated in the additional note below:.
15th February 2015 - Additional note regarding the sugar ratio: this year I used quite a lot less.  The fruit was very sweet, so I experimented with the amount of sugar: I started by working out the sugar in sixths, ie: I had 4 kilos of prepared fruit in my big stock pot so I divided 4 by six which equals .666 of a kilo; then multiplied it by three to get three sixths, which is 2 kilos; then working out additional steps in sixths, ie: four sixths equals 2.7 kilos; five sixths equals 3.33 kilos.  I had that written down before I started adding the sugar so that I knew exactly where I was up to at any point!  By the time I got to four sixths I had the flavour I wanted - perfect, so stopped right there!  (Four sixths is of course two thirds, but for the sake of adding sugar by degrees to get the flavour just right working it out in sixths is sensible as it gives smaller steps for adjustment.
   
Water: the amount of water used is half a cup per kilo of fruit. 

Repeat the next part of the process as for plums above:
      I start the cooking by placing the total water required in the pot and then gradually add the fruit to it so that the fruit mush can build up slowly as it cooks.
     Once the mush is done you can break the jam making process overnight if you want to but do be sure to keep track of the quantity of fruit you started with so that you know how much sugar you'll need when you set to work on it again!  
     When the sugar is being added take care not to let the sugar sit on the bottom of the pot as it can rapidly caramelise which will spoil your jam.  If it catches, empty the pot into a clean one and continue on from there.  If left it will spoil not only the colour but also the flavour of your delicious jam.
     Once the sugar has dissolved the heat can be turned up as the jam needs to boil briskly before it will be ready to set.  Test for readiness in the usual way.
 
Most people prefer Moorpark apricots for any kind of preserves.  The first lot was in 2009 and were Ettrick Gold, a variety which no doubt has its origins in an Ettrick orchard, which is where these ones were from.  I found both very good, but the first batch was especially pleasing.  I wrote in my notebook:
"Flavour could NOT be bettered - !!! - SCRUMPTIOUS !!!"  No kidding!  I was surprised at my own success as this was the first time I had made apricot jam.  Since then I've used Moorpark, simply because they were available and the others were not.  All of it has had that superb sun-ripened flavour which is so rare in shop bought fruit.  May yours be as good! 

MIXED FRUIT AND OTHER JAMS: Some fruit combines very well, such as various berry fruits, and once you get comfortable making plain jam you'll feel confident about experimenting further, I'm sure. 
    Last summer I had some crab-apple jelly that wasn't all that flavoursome, so I simply added it to the pot of plum jam I had on the stove and it became delicious. I didn't need to work out any additional sugar as it had already been 'jammed'.  
   Some weeks ago a neighbour gave me a big bag of yellowish-green plums which someone had given her.  She'd used what she wanted but there was still a lot left.  Not having any idea how they would turn out but wanting to have a go, I gratefully accepted them. It's all food! I duly cooked them up, and got nineteen pots of golden jam!  It's yummy actually, and tastes a bit like lemon honey!

MARMALADE: a sound and flexible recipe can be found in my article:
As I've said regarding other recipes, my aim in sharing these notes is not to present perfect formulas but with the hope of encouraging others to have a go - and to have more clues to start of with than I had!

More of my articles about jam and preserves as well as other food articles can be found listed together via the link below:

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