Things my mother taught me: how to make jam


My Mum says that when jam is bubbling away on the stove for about 15 minutes, it starts to get a smell about it. A good smell. A smell that takes her straight back to her childhood, into her own kitchen, seeing her own Mum watching the pot and stirring. That’s what I love about cooking, and food. Especially home made food. The traditions that are forged and renewed, the passing down of recipes and the comfort and love of simple delights enjoyed again as they were many, many years before.

I’ve been threatening to make jam ever since we moved down to the country. I’ve been meaning to, and after Mum told me she was up to her 20th or even 30th jar of apricot jam for the late summer season, I knew it was time to get focused and get my jam on.

What better to use than the surplus of juicy stone fruits that are available, ripe and cheap at the end of summer, beginning of autumn? I had a big delivery of organic plums from a farm down the road and spotted some wild blackberries by the roadside on my morning run – the perfect combo for a jam stockpile for the pantry – I can have a dollop of late summer on my toast right throughout the colder part of the year!


Plum & Wild Blackberry Jam (makes about 6 jars)

1 kg plums (stoned and quartered)
1/4 kg blackberries (fresh if you’re lucky or frozen)
1 kg sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Before you start my Mum tells me that you have to put a saucer or plate into the freezer. I know! Weird! But it gets used later on when you are checking if the jam is ready. Be prepared for little people to come and check out what is happening. Especially little people that love jam on their toast!

You also need to wash your jars and lids in hot, soapy water and then rinse, place on a tray and put into a 130 degree oven for 20 mins.

1. Cut the plums into halves, remove the stones and then halve again. Wash the blackberries and remove any stems.

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2. Throw all the ingredients into a heavy based saucepan, mix around and bring to the boil. Yes, it’s that easy. Who knew?!

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3. Once it has come to the boil, turn the heat down so it’s on a slow simmer for about 20-25 minutes. You will notice that there is a kind of froth that appears – Mum tells me that this is called scum. A little harsh I think, but don’t worry about it too much at this stage…we deal with that a little later on.

4. To check if it’s ready take a dollop of jam and place it onto the frozen plate. You are looking to see if it sets and the cold plate will help you do that. You can also streak your finger through the jam as well. If you notice a kind of ‘skin’ forming on the top, then you’ll know you are done.

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5. Now to deal with that scum! Mum tells me that a ‘trace’ of butter will deal with that. She takes a thin slice from a block of butter and adds it into the simmering jam. Stirring it through for about a minute will magically make it disappear. If you still have some remaining you could scoop it out.

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6. Take the sterilised jars (look at you! Sterilising jars without even realising it!) and ladle the hot jam into the warm jars. Put the lids on immediately for a good seal.

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7. Line up the jars on your bench and basque in your CWA glow. Open a window even just so people can see it lined up – it’s almost as good as a home baked pie cooling there!


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This was originally published in the Autumn 2013 issue of BEVERLEY magazine.

Do you make jam?
Got plenty of plums at the moment?


  1. I didn’t know the butter trick to remove jam scum. Thanks Beth and Beth’s Mum, I’ve learned something new today and it’s not yet 7am! xx

  2. nothing like that aroma in the kitchen beth!
    all good hints and tips! … mother knows best! … thankyou!
    you are a CWA contender now beth !
    my parents always made jam and there is nothing like home made goodies!
    enjoy the fruit jam of your labour! … love m:)X

  3. Off to buy a kg of plums right this minute. I need this jammy goodness!

  4. I made apricot jam on the weekend after our neighbour gave us a kilo of apricots from his tree (loving this living in the country thing). It tasted great, but I let it go a little longer than I should have so its more like apricot paste/jelly. Someone has suggested it will work on a cheese board, but I still managed to get some onto a piece of locally made rye sourdough with butter. Yum. Thinking about giving strawberry jam a go next if the markets have jam strawberries this weekend. My biggest fear was the jar sterilisation(and getting rid of those labels) but turned out to be pretty easy.

  5. It’s true the ‘jam smell’ is when the sugar reaches a certain point with the fruit and turns it from poached fruit into jammed! That’s what’s missing in most commercial jams where the cook is done quickly with commercial pectin(setter) in as little as 15 minutes and the finished color is fairly light in comparison.

    Not sure about the morons run though, prego and all or did you mean school run, not YOU run?

  6. Looks & sounds delicious. Around the hills where I live we are sadly recommended not to pick blackberries on the side of the road as they are weeds and have likely been sprayed with nasty pesticides. Picking blackberries & eating them reminds me of stories I would read as a child like Brambley Hedge so am sad I can’t.

  7. Is there a way of telling whether they have been sprayed by the council or not? I have fond memories of blackberry picking as a child and Mum making jars and jars of blackberry jam and blackberry pies etc. Yum!

  8. You read my mind! I was given a big bag of plums the other day and decided that I would make jam with them. Now I have a recipe!! Thanks – I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow 🙂

  9. My mum was always making jams and butters, lemon, passionfruit etc when I was little. I have never tried though. You may have just inspired me!

  10. I’m really lucky that we have an ancient Victoria Plum tree at the farm which was groaning with fruit last year so I was able to make loads of jam. The only thing I find with them is that the fruit really clings to the stone so it’s easier to actually cook the jam with them in. If you split the skin with a sharp knife first the stones come away as you cook it and rise to the top and you can scoop them out. You do have to be careful to remove them all but it’s so much easier. We are also surrounded by fields that are full of blackberries and the hedges aren’t sprayed so my freezer is bursting with blackberry and apple.

  11. LissyLouLou says

    A tip from my jam-making Mum: once you’ve filled the jars and get the lids on, turn the jars upside down and let them cool so the hot hot jam kinda sterilizes the inside of the jar lid. It prevents furry mould from growing inside the jar…… can you tell we made dozens of jars of jam?

  12. So do you just use a hodge podge of jars then or do you buy new ones? Do they seal ok? Thanks for this…it sounds so easy…

  13. Lisa Mckenzie says

    Nothing better than homemade jam Beth x

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