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Jam Masterclass with Vivien Lloyd - Win her book!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to a Jam Masterclass with the lovely Vivien Lloyd who is, a WI trained judge, and legend of the jam making world.  I am a huge fan of whipping out my cauldron to make jam or chutney when we have a glut of apples off our trees, rhubarb from our garden, berries we have foraged or any excess fruit that we have been given.  Making jam and chutney is a great way to cut down on waste and preserve fruit and or vegetables, and brighten up the winter months as you eat your way through your preserves.

Vivien made some Blackcurrant and Chilli jam for us at the event and answered the many questions that we asked of her.  To add the chilli flavour to the jam, Vivien bruised it with a rolling pin, then popped it into a muslin bag and hung it over the side of the jam pan to infuse as the fruit cooked in the first stage of the jam making process (before the sugar is added).

You could use this technique to add loads of different flavours to your preserves such as raspberry with mint or gooseberry and elderflower, just put the mint or elderflower in a muslin bag and hang it over the side of the jam pan to infuse the fruit at the first (boiling) stage.

Tips, Tricks and Don'ts I learnt at the Masterclass:

Strawberry Jam is very tricky!
Making strawberry jam fills Vivien's heart with dread as it is SO tricky, start with a simpler jam first until you get the hang of the techniques and science behind jam making. 
The reason that strawberry jam is so difficult to make is that strawberries are really low in pectin, which is the the natural setting agent in fruit that helps set your jam.  Combine the strawberries with another fruit high in pectin or use the cooked juices from other pectin-rich fruits like cooking apples, gooseberries and redcurrants

Other top tips were, choose strawberries that are small and dry, never go picking strawberries after it has rained the day before, and don't use really ripe and soft strawberries if you can avoid it.

Handy Hints for jam making:

If you use jam sugar then the jam you make will taste artificial and will look a much brighter colour than if you had used cane sugar.  Preserving sugar is fine.

Likewise if you use artificial pectin, it makes the jam taste slightly artificial and leaves an aftertaste.  You can make your own version from the boiled juice of high pectin fruits such as gooseberries, red/blackcurrants or cooking apples.

Cane sugar the best sugar to use for jam making, rather than granulated sugar.  This has been tested and proved by the WI, I shall not argue!

If you put the sugar in the oven to warm up, before you put your jars in, it will dissolve into the fruit much more quickly.

Make jam in small batches, halve your recipe if you have to, this will make the boiling stage much quicker and you won't boil all the flavour out of your fruit.

When you fill your jars always fill them almost to the top, leaving about 2mm of room, because the jam will shrink as it cools.

How do I know if my jam will set?

There are two main tests you can use to tell if your jam will set:
The Pectin Test is a chemical reaction which will tell you if enough pectin has been released from the cooked fruit to allow the jam to set.  To perform the test combine 1 Tblsp meths and 1 tsp of your cooked fruit, if it’s at the right stage a little glob/ball of jelly should form, if not you'll get an amoeba type shape which means you need to boil it a little longer. 

The Flake Test is where you judge the setting point by the way your boiled fruit hangs off a metal spoon.  Hold up a metal spoon covered in jam, twist it round a few times and see how the jam drips off the spoon. If the jam drips hang off the spoon without dropping, forming a flake shape, then it should set.  

Vivien demonstrating the flake test
Common Pitfalls:

Jam making is a science, if you use a poor quality recipe then you will end up with poor quality jam.  Make sure you use a tried and tested, reliable recipe from a decent source.

Try not to suffer from "set anxiety" which is when you boil your jam for ages hoping it’ll set and then it doesn’t.  Vivien said you should only have to boil your jam for around 5 minutes once you've added the sugar, not much longer.  Jam making isn't time to multitask, you need to be focused on the job at hand or you will miss the setting point and ruin your jam.

Let your jars cool a little if you have heated them in the oven prior to filling them.  It makes the jars easier to handle and if your jars are too hot when you fill them with marmalade then the peel will rise to the top and your marmalade will look odd.

Don't go overboard when topping your jars of jam!  Use either screw top lids or wax discs and cellophane.  There is no reason to use both, you're just creating extra work for yourself.

By all means recycle your jam jars but don't be tempted to recycle the lids, it could taint the flavour of your jam. 

Despite advice in recipes to use butter to get rid of jam scum, don’t!  It alters the flavour of the jam in a slightly unpleasant way.

Vivien Lloyd's Blackcurrant and Chilli Jam

Reproduced with kind permisssion.  This recipe will make about 2.25kg of jam.

This jam can be made from fresh or frozen blackcurrants.  If you are using frozen blackcurrants, add 10% more to the recipe.  Defrost your berries thoroughly before you attempt to make jam with them.  Vivien used Chocolate Habaneros for this recipe, however, you could use Scotch Bonnets instead.

1kg (2lb) black currants
852ml (1½ pints) water
1.4kg (3lb) sugar
1 Habanero Chilli

Using a fork, remove the currants from their strings. Pick the fruit over and take out any stray leaves. Place the currants in a large preserving pan with the water. Bruise the chilli with a rolling pin and tie it up in a small piece of muslin and add this to the pan.

Simmer the fruit very gently until tender (25–30 minutes). Warm the sugar in an ovenproof bowl in a low oven, 140°C (275°F/Gas 1).

Remove the sugar from the oven. Squeeze the liquid from the muslin bag back into the pan by pressing it against the side of the pan with a spoon. Stir the liquid into the pan. Discard the muslin bag.

Add the sugar to the preserving pan and stir until it has dissolved. Bring the jam quickly to a rolling boil and boil hard until setting point is reached.

Test for a set after 5 minutes using the flake, cold plate or thermometer test. As soon as setting point is reached, remove the pan from the heat and leave it to stand for a few minutes. Push any scum from the surface of the pan to the side and remove it with a metal spoon.

Gently stir the jam and pour it into clean warm jars, up to the brim. Seal immediately either with new twist-top lids or waxed discs and cellophane covers secured with rubber bands. If using cellophane covers, apply them when the jam is cold in the jars.

Win Vivien's Book!
I was given a copy of First Preserves at the Masterclass, and got it signed.  While I was at it I managed to beg for get a signed copy for me to give away on my blog to a fellow jam maker!
To win a signed copy of First Preserves just leave a comment telling me what flavour jam is your favourite jam to make.

There is one prize of a signed copy of First Preserves by Vivien Lloyd.

This is giveaway is open to all readers over 18 with a UK mailing address.

The winner will be chosen using an online randomiser and announced in a subsequent blog post.

You need to leave either an e-mail address or twitter name in your comment so that I can contact you if you're the lucky winner.

Competition will close at 10pm on Monday 23rd July 2012. Winner will be notified on Tuesday 24th July 2012. Should the winner fail to reply to notifications that they have won within 3 days, the giveaway shall be redrawn using an online randomiser.


  1. My favourite to make has to be Blackberry and apple and jelly. One I love the taste, but also love the picking of the blackberries with the children then come home to make the jam. Some great tips above, I am guilty of the over boil!!!

  2. I love making blackberry jam - am excited to try making it with chilli!

  3. I love making apple and blueberry jam, it doesn't taste too sweet. I love that my three year old son loves this jam and chooses to eat it above all other flavours!
    I'm on twitter as @chelleway

  4. I've never made jam before, but hope I can still be considered for the book.
    I do enjoy making marmalade. Partly because it always tastes nicer homemade, but also I love the time I spend in the kitchen with my jam pan bubbling away on the hob. It makes the house smell fabulous too

  5. Home made lime marmalade has a wonderful flavour @signorbiscotti

  6. I like apricot and add a naughty dash of Amaretto! @MaggieFoodie

  7. My favourite homemade jam is apple and ginger and I'm also partial to homemade raspberry jam :)

    Twitter name is @BlueKitchenBake

  8. I love jam but the nearest I've got to making it is lime pickle. Hope I can win and then do some more experimenting

  9. I've never made jam, I enjoy it on my toast (esp. Raspberry) but i've always been a bit intimidated to attempt to make it. This book could be just the thing I need to get me started! @Lawchick35

  10. I've never made jam but my favourite flavour is strawberry, yum!

    robertfox24 [at] aol [dot] com

  11. Hmm, this is tricky. My favourite up to a week ago was definitely hedgerow jelly; a mixture of haws, elderberries, blackberries & crab apples. Then I made rose petal and apple jelly, and made a rose and apple butter with the leftovers, and now I'm completely torn.

    Twitter name @ediblethings

  12. I've been making jam like crazy now our allotment is full of fruit! My son loves Strawberry and Blackcurrant jam but best has got to be the strawberry and Gooseberry Jam I made. None of us like Gooseberries but we have 2 bushes on our allotment so I used them up with strawberries which are low in pectin and made a perfect jam!

    @petitmew on Twitter


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