How to Make Traditional Jams and Jellies
Fruit for jam and jelly making should be fresh and of sound quality. Sugar should be good and clean. Jars, whether of glass or earthenware, may be rolled through very hot, or even boiling, water, then wiped dry and warmed before the preserve is filled into them. Opinions vary as to the wisdom of sealing jams down when hot, There is much to be said in favour of quick sealing, but as many people prefer to seal preserves when cold, it is essential that the little waxed disks should be applied to the top of the jam immediately it is put into the jars. The disk is some preventative against dust and other impurities from the air attacking the contents of the jar.
Many fruits, such as blackcurrants, gooseberries, and damsons, are the better for the addition of water, and in all cases where water is used the fruit and water should be put into the preserving pan together, brought to the boil, and cooked for some time before the sugar is added. It is well to remember that it is the fruit and not the sugar that needs cooking, and jams and jellies subjected to too long boiling with the sugar are apt to – lose colour and flavour, besides being reduced in quantity.
When possible, gather fruit when dry. In very wet seasons, the damp and cold round about fruit-picking time affects jam very seriously, because the fruit has a reduced amount of natural sugar in it. Result, more tendency to mildew and less chance of sound keeping.
There are some fruits that do not contain enough pectin and acid to make the jam set, but there are various ways in which pectin and acid can be added, one being to combine one fruit deficient in these qualities with another which is rich in pectin. For instance, some of the fruits which set well and cover quite a long season are green gooseberries, red currants, firm ripe loganberries, sour apples, damsons, and red unripe blackberries.
The pectin extract from any one of these can be obtained by washing the fruit well, and, in the case of apples, cutting them up without peeling or coring, weighing the fruit before placing it in a pan, allowing 2 pints of water to 6 lb. of fruit.
The method then is to simmer until tender, mashing all occasionally, then turn into a jelly bag, previously scalded with boiling water, and allow the fruit to drip for some hours. A second extract is made by returning the fruit pulp to the preserving pan, adding just sufficient water to make a wet mash; bring it again to the boil and keep it simmering for 1 1/2 hours. Then strain through a freshly scalded bag and mix with the first extract – this makes for economy.
The extract is ready for adding to fruits deficient in pectin and acid at the rate of 1 pint to each 4 lb. of fruit. Fruits which benefit by the addition of extract are: apricots, rhubarb, cherries, strawberries, ripe blackberries, and other fruits which are definitely over-ripe when ready to be turned into jam. Some raspberries and bilberries also benefit by the addition of a little extract when being preserved.
Another great advantage of using extract is that it reduces the time that the fruit would otherwise take to secure a setting.
Lemon juice is one of the finest methods of adding pectin and acid; this is easily added in the proportion of 2 tablespoonfuls of lemon juice to 2 lb. of fruit for such fruit as marrow, pumpkin and rhubarb. Add before starting the cooking of the fruit.
When using poor-setting fruits, the addition of 1 level teaspoonful of tartaric acid or citric acid to each 2 ib. of fruit will help them to set. Crush the acid to fine powder, dissolve in a spoonful of water, and add to the fruit when first put in the preserving pan.