Getting Ready for Business

jam making equipment

What a gorgeous selection of jam making equipment!

I’ve just been sitting here thinking about what I’m going to make this year. There’s all sorts of wonderful ideas going round in my head as I watch the snow flurry across the window. It’s the first day of April and the weather outside feels like December or January. Still it’s got to pick up soon and then the real jam making will commence.

And you know that’s got me thinking, have I got all the jam making equipment I’m going to need. I’m one of the most disorganised people I know. If any of you watch my YouTube videos you know I’m always disappearing out of shot to fetch something I’ve forgotten. Believe it or not sometimes its even ingredients! What’s more I’m also terrible for using things for other purposes. It not beyond me to use a sieve from the kitchen to sieve out the seeds from the cow muck liquid fertiliser I use on my tomatoes. Fear not it doesn’t make it back into the kitchen, but what happens is I forget to replace it and then my jam making equipment is minus a sieve, which of course I only realise when I’ve got a lovely batch of blackcurrants boiled down ready to make blackcurrant jelly.

So while I’m sat here waiting for the fibreglass resin to harden on a little project I’m doing – man of many talents me, or is it “jack of all trades master of none,” I thought why not go through the list of what I need and at the same time share it with you. You never know it might just make your life a little easier and more to the point you can comment on what I’ve forgotten and so we can all have a full complement of jam making equipment to start the season, so here we go:

My list of essential jam making equipment

    • Jam Kettle – One of these is good, but to be fair I find a stainless steel stock pot better. Unlike jam kettles they tend to come with lids (preferably glass) so you can stew your fruit first and then add your sugar all in one operation rather than having to cook the fruit in a separate saucepan and transfer it to the kettle. Okay, a jam kettle usually has a bit of a pouring lip shaped into the side, but who picks up a full jam kettle and starts pouring the contents into jars – not me that’s for sure. So on balance a stock pot with a glass lid, so you can watch the progress of your fruit, is by far the best item to make the centre piece of your jam making equipment.
    • Wooden Spoon – Again I’m going to be controversial and say a wooden spatula is far superior. It lets you scrape round the sides and the base of the saucepan far more efficiently. Mine is the only sentimental piece of jam making equipment I’ve got. It’s old and battered but I wont part with it.
    • Scales – I like digital electronic; they are cheap to buy, easy to clean and usually convert to all sorts of handy measuring units at the press of a button.
    • Measuring Jug – Now I like a wide squat shape of measuring jug, 1.5 to 2 litres capacity. The wider the better really so when decanting hot liquor it gives a bigger target to hit! I usually decant my finished jam from the saucepan to the measuring jug and thence to the jars.
    • Sieve & Jelly Bag – I’ll put both of these items together as I always use them together. I never place my cooked fruit straight into the jelly bag. If you do it clogs up so quickly you’re there for hours or literally days trying to get the damned stuff through. I always sieve first through a normal kitchen sieve, wider the better. There is another reason for this. When sieving you can force a lot of the “gunk” through which normally contains much of the pectin. This will subsequently disperse in the primary liquor, meaning more will be carried over through the jelly bag and into the final liquor improving the set. By the way don’t forget my tip on how to make a straining bag.
    • Jam Funnel – I don’t bother, I just pour straight from the measuring jug into the jam jars, but I guess if you’re making huge quantities and need to pour straight from your stock pot or jam kettle then one would be an essential piece of jam making equipment.
    • Thermometer – Again, I don’t use one. This is turning into a list of non jam making equipment – lol! Seriously though, I think its valuable, as I explain why it gives you the opportunity to make your own mind up on the pros and cons of each piece of jam making equipment and equip your arsenal accordingly. I’m not Delia Smith, she has her place but I don’t want my site to be a blow by blow prescription on how to do it. I want you all to have your own ideas, try new things, fail occasionally like I do and we can all grow together from the experience. Oh dear, lecture over – why don’t I use a thermometer? Well, simple, by the time you’ve reached the “recommended” setting temperature for jam it is ruined. The pectin, sugar, acid reaction that occurs to give the gel like substance that makes jam set does not have to occur at a ridiculously high temperature, in fact pectin will start to break down if the temperature is too high. What you are making if you use the old fashioned temperature method for setting jam is toffee not jam. Consequently, all the flavour of the fruit is boiled away and you just get a sweet goo – what a waste of time and good fruit!
    • Pressure Cooker – Absolutely essential piece of jam making equipment if you want sterile jars. If you want to be absolutely sure your precious jam wont go off then sterilising the jars with a pressure cooker using a method such as I describe in my blog post on the subject is the only way to go.
    • jam making equipment

      To me the pressure cooker is the essential piece of jam making equipment

And that I think is about it. I haven’t included anything that ends up in the jam or containing the jam as that is not jam making equipment, but obviously, fruit, sugar, possibly pectin or citric acid and jam jars will all be needed as well. I would however hope that that was obvious. Even I the scatter brain of the century have yet to turn up to a jam making session without the fruit!!

Have I got any recommendations where to get your jam making equipment from? Well as usual I would say good old Wares of Knutsford. Not just because what they stock is good quality and value but also because of the great personal service and the gorgeous range of other goodies you can pick up whilst on their site.

Hope this has been of use to you and please do shower me with all the things I’ve forgotten to mention and lets get that jam making equipment ready for another season.

Comments

  1. I’ve used a thermometer for ages and as yet have never got jam up to 220 degrees. Mine seems to settle at around 212-215. I make lots of Apple Jam and find it difficult to decide how much water to add as sometimes more than a desertspoon full leaves the jam runny and unable to set. I add more water after the suger stage if the jam looks that it may be too thick. I love to add ginger, cinnamen or nutmeg to the apples.
    I like the idea of the stainless steel stockpot as I currently use an aluminiun saucepan which is not ideal but the biggest container I have.
    Cheers
    Dave

  2. Les Ireland on September 11, 2012 at 8:05 am said:

    I’ve never used a thermometer either – I’ve never found one that can measure finely enough to give precise enough temperatures. And in the end, I find the “cold plate” test or the “Sheeting off the wooden spoon” test far more effective for deciding whether I’ve a got a set or not.
    The most useful thing I ever bought was the sieve which stands on a bowl to strain for Jelly. Before then improvisation with muslin bag, broom handles, stools upside down, cupboard doors etc etc was never really satisfactory. Having said that, I’ve never found the perfect sieve – I bought the red circular one with adjustable feet which was good but broke too easily.

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