Just the other morning while I was filling out the little jars at work with breakfast jam, I thought to myself,
"Such luxurious times we live in".
Centuries ago, jam was a delicacy only the royalty enjoyed. These preserves were made from fruit picked from the garden and glasshouse on the palace grounds. Fast forward to the present and I am portioning jam from a large bucket and everyone can enjoy a jam sandwich. Isn't it funny how we take these little luxuries for granted?
Of course there are jams, and there are jams. What sets the standard for the heavy-weights is the percentage of fruit. To me, any preserve containing a minimum of 45% fruit is called a jam. Anything less, it is a jelly or a fruit spread - and this is by no means my personal dismissal of its quality, merely a question of semantics.
Although I was tempted to make this jam without the use of commercial pectin, the idea of gathering enough apple pips or making an apple peel stock had me change my mind at the drop of a spoon. The truth is, most commercial pectin is derived from apple anyway but is conveniently crystallised for use. Initially, I planned on using raw sugar in my jam but spotted jam-setting sugar conveniently packaged in 1kg bags at my local grocery which is just the amount I required. Although, it costs a fraction more than raw or white sugar, it really does make the whole process, less of a process - that is, there is no need to:
measure pectin then mixing it through the sugar to prevent it from clumping together
determine the appropriate amount of citric acid required to activate the pectin and,
be left behind with a jarful of pectin that you may never use again, unless you are considering jam-making as a hobby.
The jam I made is a no-fuss-cook-in-30-minutes-soft-set variety. The advantage of the short cooking time is you get to preserve the vibrant colour and taste of the fruit and as a result, a more robust jam in both flavour and visual appeal. Some recipes call for a knob of butter to be added when the jam has come to its setting point. This does not affect the flavour of the jam and is merely done to help disperse the foam that accumulates during boiling (scientifically, its job is to break the surface tension of the jam). Some argue that this step may affect the shelf life of the product but I cannot personally remark on this as I have very little jam-making experience. I find skimming the foam off the surface of the jam before placing them in jars just as easy.
If you wish to read more about proper jam-making, this site offers some good guidelines. As does this site. However, I must add my jam (although breaking a few rules highlighted in aforementioned sites) is pretty spectacular and should you try it, you would probably think so too.
So try it, and let me know what you think.