Ever since I was a little kid, I have always loved jam. Especially my gran's jam, which she's been making in her wee kitchen in Glasgow for as long as I can remember.
One afternoon, when I was 14, I took an interest in jam making and asked my gran to share her secrets with me. After a few hours of learning about fruit, pectin, the setting point and how to put jam into jars, I was ready to have a shot at making it myself.
That same day, I ran around to the supermarket and bought some fruit and sugar and made a batch of my own. Before it had even cooled down, I went round to the neighbours to ask what they thought. Thankfully, they liked the first few jars and began buying my homemade jams and marmalades every couple of weeks. I was in business!
That tiny enterprise grew and grew and I was soon supplying delicatessens all over Scotland. I later came up with a method for making jam entirely from fruit which I called SuperJam. We have since launched into Waitrose and other major supermarkets and I've written a recipe book, The SuperJam Cookbook, sharing some of my gran's and my own jam making secrets.
Everyone seems to have a story about jam. It brings back memories of childhood, of grandparents, maybe of a time when things were simpler. Making your own is a hugely satisfying and rewarding process, especially if you pick the fruit yourself. For those who have never made preserves before, it might be a daunting endeavour but there are a few basic tips that should guarantee success.
What kind of fruit should you use?
The reason jam sets is down to pectin, which occurs naturally in fruits. Some fruits are high in pectin, such as raspberries, apples, plums and oranges. These are easy to make jam from. For fruits that don't contain much pectin, like strawberries, you can add extra pectin (available in wee bottles in the supermarkets).
The basic method of jam making involves cooking fruit on a low heat until it has the consistency of porridge, then adding sugar (or fruit juice, if you're making SuperJam) and bringing it up to the setting point (105C).
How will you know that it is going to set?
There is a wee trick that my Gran taught me to test whether your jam is going to set. You put a spoonful of the hot jam onto a cold plate, wait a couple of minutes and then run your finger across it. If the jam wrinkles, you're onto a winner.
How do you put the jam into jars?
The most important thing in jam making is being sure everything is clean and sterile, especially the jars. You can heat up the jars in the oven before pouring in the jam to be sure that they are safe and sound.
You can't go far wrong if you stick to those few simple rules. Once you start making jams, you'll soon be experimenting with all kinds of fruits and maybe you'll even try your hand at marmalades, curds, chutneys and nut butters …. All just as fun!
Whether you've never tried making jam before and need a little encouragement, want to know whether a crazy idea you've had for a recipe will actually work, or are an experienced jam maker and have questions about the finer points of the process this is the place to be. Post your questions below.