Home' Nova National : January 2011 Contents SUMMER IS THE season of fruitfulness
and completion when Nature completes
its cycle with its abundant bounty. One
of the easiest ways to reduce your
food costs and have good quality fruits
available throughout the year is to
preserve it. Long before shops, there
was the well stocked pantry, filled with
preserved foods of all descriptions.
Technically, the object of preserving
is to slow down the process of decay.
Food spoils from the continued activity
of natural enzymes in all fruits and
vegetables and the continued work of
micro-organisms in the form of moulds,
yeasts and bacteria present in the food
Sugar is one of the main preservers;
its role is to saturate the natural moisture
of fruit and it's used for jams, jellies and
pastes. Right now, you can easily make
jam at home. Any discussion on jam
invariably means a discussion about
sugar. I am often asked if something
other than sugar can be used to make
jam; my answer is yes, but it is complex.
Many of the sugar-free jams you see are
made with white grape juice concentrate,
use pectin and have been processed in a
boiling water bath. Simply because there
is not enough sucrose to saturate the
fruit and preserve (and this is true of
many other non- sucrose- based sweete-
ners like stevia, agave and rice syrup)
the boiling water bath IS the preserving
method. Once open and the seal
broken, the jam begins to deteriorate
and must be kept in the fridge. So, yes
you can do it, but I'm not a big fan.
I prefer to use organic raw sugar (not
Rapadura which is too low in sucrose) in
the smallest possible amount. Most jam
recipes call for equal quantities of sugar
to fruit by weight. You need about 60 -
70% sugar for good jelling to occur
naturally (sugar, pectin, acidity). I find
this way too much sugar and prefer a
ratio of 30- 40% sugar to fruit. Because
the holy trinity of acid, sugar and pectin is
disrupted, this will result in a softer "set",
which I happen to prefer.
It is extremely difficult to make jam in
a deep pot with a small surface area.
The right pot is critical to making low
sugar jam. Mine is a traditional French
copper preserving pan, shallow and
wide. It's about 12cm high, 36cm across
the base, and 39cm across the top, with
a 10 litre capacity. The wide surface area
encourages evaporation and reduction,
thus cooking the jam quickly.
Yes, you can make smaller amounts
in your average large home saucepan.
A wider and shallower pot with less
capacity (eg. a sauté pan with a 5 litre
capacity and a depth of 8cm) is better
than a pot with a 10 litre capacity but
a depth of 16 -18cm. It will mean you
can only make small amounts at a time,
approx 2kg of fruit. You can also use a 20
-24cm typical home saucepan, but keep
the amount of fruit to 1kg. How much
fruit you use (the weight) will depend
on the size of your pan; a good guide is
to fill your pan only two thirds full or even
Preserving the Harvest
Jars and Lids
Always use tempered jars that can
withstand the temperatures involved
in sterilising and jam making. Jars must
not be cracked, chipped or damaged
in any way, and lids must not be
scratched or dented. Jars can be re-
used, but lids are good for one usage
Sterilising your Equipment
If you are not using a boiling water bath,
your jars, lids, ladles and funnel must all
be sterilised. I prefer to sterilise my jars
the old fashioned way (in boiling water
for 12 minutes) but many prefer the
oven. This must be 120 degrees C, for
20 minutes. Jars must be sterile and
warm, lids clean and dry.
© NOVA JANUARY 2011
'It is extremely difficult to make jam in a deep pot with
a small surface area.'
JAM - A UNIVERSAL RECIPE
This is how I make jam, but you can equally
cut the fruit up and macerate it with the sugar
overnight -- this will give you a quicker cooking
time the day after. If doing so, Stage 1 will
happen very quickly.
Taste your fruit and assess its sweetness,
and work out your ratio of sugar. I generally
use between 26 -30%. If the fruit is sweet, I
start at the lower amount.
● 4kg fruit (if using stone fruit washed and
weighed with the stone removed. There is
no need to dry the fruit, a little bit of water
● 1.2kg raw sugar
● 1 medium sized lemon, skin on, cut into
Sterilise all jars and lids, place them on
a baking tray lined with a clean tea towel and
keep warm in a low oven.
Cut the fruit into desired portions into
smaller portions. Discard any seed (as in
apricots etc). As a general guide, leave
blueberries and small strawberries whole,
but chop larger strawberries; cut apricots and
plums into halves or quarters; cut figs into
quarters or smaller segments.
Put the fruit in your jam pot, together
with sugar and lemon. Gently stir the sugar
Place the pot over a very low heat, allowing
the sugar to dissolve. This takes about 15
minutes, or a bit longer, depending on the size
of your pot. Stir gently and rarely.
Once the sugar is visibly starting to dissolve,
increase the heat slightly until you see a gentle
bubbling. Stir frequently. Continue to cook
for 15 mins (or longer if using a deeper pot).
The juices will have wept out from the fruit,
thus increasing the amount of liquid in the
Increase the heat to a very high boil until a
"set" is achieved. As you are now cooking at a
high boil, you need to stir frequently to check
the feel of the jam and to make sure it isn't
sticking to the bottom (a long sleeved shirt is
good here). As the jam reduces, it will thicken.
You may need to reduce the heat to a slower
boil as the jam thickens, but keep stirring
frequently. This stage should take about 30
minutes, but the deeper the pot, the longer
it will take. It should take about 10 minutes if
using a small 1kg amount.
Set is generally considered to occur
when the jam reaches 105degreesC (for a
60% sugar jam). But this doesn't hold for low
sugar jams, where the relationship between
sugar, acid and pectin has been disrupted.
I go by appearance and "feel" and cook the
jam until it is fairly thick. The bubbles also
become more volcanic and flat. Placing a
small amount of jam on a saucer or dish and
chilling it is another good method for checking
the constancy. When cool, run your finger
through the middle -- you want to see a clear
line of plate underneath. Any juices that flow
into the line should look like lovely liquid jam,
and not at all watery, and should have body.
The jam must be ladled into the warm jars
immediately; it's incredibly important that
the jam goes into the jars very, very hot, as
this will create the vacuum seal on the jars.
Make sure the jars are not on a cold surface --
keeping them on the warm tray is a good idea.
Fill the jars (to within just over ½ cm of the top
rim -- a smaller air space will create a faster
and better vacuum) and remove (with a clean,
damp cloth) any jam around the edge or lip of
the jar, as this will interfere with a good seal
forming. Seal the lid and leave to sit (though
you can move them to a cooling rack gently)
until absolutely cool. When cool, check for a
concave dent in the lid. If there isn't one, store
the jam in the fridge and use.
See our website novamagazine.com.au
for more of Jude's fabulous wholefood recipes
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