Top tips for making jam

  • By BBC Good Food team

Learn how to make jam and read our top tips for all kinds of preserves. Try using fresh fruit and veg to make pickles, chutneys, fruit leathers and more.

Cherry jam and bread

Bottle a taste of sweet summer fruit or fresh autumn veg with our best ever jam recipes, top pickles and simple syrups. Make the most of homemade produce, raid the allotment and forage in the hedgerows for tasty ingredients. Experiment with delicious flavour combinations and try something new, like our mouthwatering membrillo and quince jelly. Check out our top tips for preserving jams, jellies and beyond.

How to make jam

Blueberry jam
There's nothing like a row of colourful summer jams to brighten cold winter days. Now is the time to think ahead and get jamming. To qualify as proper jam, the finished product should contain 60% sugar, including the sugars in the fruit.

Top tips

  • Use fresh, dry, slightly under-ripe fruit. Strawberries and raspberries are best layered with the sugar and left for a couple of hours before cooking. Plums, currants, gooseberries, cherries etc need to be lightly poached before sugar is added.
  • Pectin, naturally found in fruit is vital to make your jam set. With low-pectin fruits like strawberries, help them along by either mixing with pectin-rich fruit like gooseberries or by using jam sugar (with added pectin and citric acid).
  • Setting point is 104.5°C. You can tell when jam is reaching setting point as the fast, frothy rolling boil will reduce to a slower, more relaxed boil. The tiny air bubbles disappear, the surface looks glossy and the mixture will feel thicker. Undercook rather than overcook – runny jam can be cooked up again.
  • To get rid of scum (which is just trapped air) at the end of cooking, stir in the same direction until reduced.
  • When potting up, fill your jars to the brimful when the jam is still over 85°C. If using twist-on metal lids, there's no need to use waxed discs.

Watch our video and learn how to test jam, then try our favourite fruity jam recipes: 

Homemade raspberry jam
Marrow & ginger jam
Really fruity strawberry jam
Gooseberry jam
Blackberry jam
Cherry & cinnamon conserve
Blueberry jam
 

Making fruit leathers and cheeses

Plumbrillo
Leathers are the ultimate children's lunchbox solution – a lightly sweetened fruit purée is slowly dried in a low oven producing a thin pliable sheet, a bit like leather. A fruit cheese is a solid, sliceable preserve – perfect with cheese.

Top tip

  • Leave leathers in the oven until they're completely dry. You can then peel off the baking parchment easily. 

Try our step-by-step fruit leather recipe for tasty snacking, or get stuck into our sweet plumbrillo recipe for a twist on the Spanish classic. 
 

Top tips for making liqueurs, syrups and cordials

Raspberry cordial
Steeping fruits in alcohol or sugar syrup is a lovely way of preserving the essences of juicy summer fruits. Cordials and syrups can be diluted like a fruit squash.

Top tips

  • Make sure your fruit is perfectly ripe.
  • Prick fruit with a needle to help the juices flow.
  • Don't wash the fruit unless vital.

Quench your thirst with our best ever cordial recipes and bottle your favourite flavours:

Blackcurrant cordial
Raspberry cordial
Rosehip cordial
 

Top tips for making pickles and chutneys

Easy piccalilli
There's nothing better than a juicy pickle or chutney to spice up cold meat or cheese, or to throw into a stew. Plus, they're dead easy to make.

Top tips

  • Remove any air pockets by gently tapping the jars on your work surface.
  • Be sure to pack to within 5mm of the top of the jar.
  • Seal with vinegar-proof twist-on lids.

Crack out your jars and get preserving with our favourite pickle and chutney recipes

Rhubarb & date chutney
Richly spiced plum chutney
Green bean & mustard pickle
Crunchy courgette pickle
Homemade tomato chutney
Easy piccalilli
Green tomato chutney
Spicy plum & apple chutney
Pickled onions
 

Top tips for making jellies

Grape jelly on bread
These are clear jams without 'bits' in them, made by boiling strained fruit juice with sugar. They're best made with fruits high in pectin, though if your fruit isn't, combine with a fruit that is, like apples and gooseberries. To every 600ml of juice, add 450g sugar.

Top tip

  • To speed up the flow of the straining juice, put a small saucer and heavyish weight (for example, a water filled jam jar) on top of the fruit pulp.

Damson jelly
Grape jelly
 

Tell us your top tips for preserving and try your hand at more pickles, jams and chutneys.