Nowadays, commercial jam has become one of those products which has suffered the traditional British dumbing-down process caused by our food industry’s insistence that customers want only the cheapest food. The proliferation of cheap, sugary jams has devalued jam but with the current summer producing plenty of fresh local strawberries and currants, why not make your own now?
A brief history of Jam
Jam-making probably began in the Middle-East where cane sugar grew naturally. The first known book of recipes, “Of Culinary Matters”, written by the Roman gastronome Marcus Gavius Apicius in the first century, includes recipes for jams.
It is believed that returning Crusaders first introduced jam to Europe; by the late Middle Ages, jam had become very popular. Jam-making in Europe can be traced back to the 16th century following the arrival of the Spanish in the West Indies who had been preserving fruits for generations.
Jams were a kingly delicacy and many a royal sweet tooth demanded an array of fruit flavours preserved with sugar. Chroniclers of more regal eras describe the magnificent feasts of Louis XIV, which always ended with fruit preserves served in silver dishes. Each delicacy served at Versailles was made with fruit from the kingâ€™s own gardens and glasshouses.
In Britain, jam’s origins are in Tudor times. The food historian Ann Wilson records that there was a wide range of jams available; for example, quince and medlar. There was also a highly prized Tudor preserve called a sucket, a cross between candied peel and jam. It is still produced in Chios in the north Aegean (allegedly Homer’s birthplace) and is known as ‘spoon sweets’ because they are served on silver spoons. They can be made with green figs, baby aubergines, unripe walnuts, green pistachios, strawberries, berries and stone fruit.
All you need is fruit and sugar, though some fruits will need lemon and added pectin. Fruits with tops and tails like blackcurrants are a fiddle to prepare so you might prefer to make jelly with these as the fruit is just washed and left to drip through a muslin bag overnight.
Not sure how to start? The BBC food website has lots of recipes to choose from and this Tala jam making set from Tesco includes all the instruments required! The set includes 6 glass preserving jars, thermometer, funnel, 24 decorative covers and labels, 24 wax discs, 24 rubber bands and 24 transparent covers. Was Â£17.00 now Â£16.00.