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Tuesday 28 September 2010

We're Jammin': Jam tips from the WI

I love a bit of jam on my porridge, on a scone or just surreptitiously scooped out of the jar with a spoon. So when I was invited up to the Good Housekeeping Institute to learn the tricks of the trade with Stoves and the W.I. I jumped at the chance.

I was tutored by the lovely Kath Mepham (with husband Peter on the washing up), a jam veteran of several decades and a Women's Institute judge. Jam is a great way of preserving fruit for the winter, and it's surprisingly easy once you get the hang of it. Here are Kath's top tips for a great pot of the sweet stuff.

Kath's top tips for jam

  • DO use new lids on your jams - the taste of your jam can be affected by a nasty old lid, especially if it's been covering something vinegary beforehand. It's fine to recycle jam jars though.
  • DON'T forget to sterilise your jam jars. It's not tricky  - just bung them in the dishwasher or in hot soapy water, rinse and put in the oven at 180c / Gas 4 for ten minutes. Then keep them warm until you're ready to fill them. Sterilising ensures your jam will keep for over a year unopened.
  • DO warm the sugar before stirring it into the fruit. This helps the sugar dissolve quickly, so you don't have to cook the fruit for so long and the flavour stays vibrant.
  • DON'T use aluminium pans - they can taint the flavour. If you're really into jam, a stainless steel preserving pan is a very useful bit of kit.
  • DO add a tiny touch of butter if there's scum on your jam - this helps to disperse it and gives a glossy finish. Don't go nuts though, or it's get a bit greasy.
  • DON'T add the sugar until the fruit is soft, especially with tougher skinned fruits like plums or blackcurrants.

For recipe inspiration, why not try Jane's Scones with Blackcurrant Jam.

With Kath's expert guidance I made two very respectable jars of raspberry jam. I was so inspired that I decided to enter my jam in the WI Real Jam Festival. If you're inspired too, and fancy winning this groovy jam-inspired Stoves oven, entries open on Friday 1 October and close on November 12. Better get jammin!

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