Jams, chutneys and other preserves: tips and tricks

With the days jamgetting distinctly shorter, it's a good time to get creative with the last of the summer fruit and veg. A little work now and you'll be sorted with all manner of jams, chutneys and other preserves through the winter months.

Love the idea but in a pickle about where to start? Don't panic! We've picked a selection of Mumsnetters' tips and tricks for dealing with everything from pectin problems to bottling blunders.

But first, what will you be making... 


Jelly, jam or chutney?

Jellies and jams are both a combination of fruit, sugar and pectin, but jelly has usually had all the bits strained out, whereas jam will usually have some seeds and fruity bits. Chutney is usually more savoury, but there are always exceptions to these guidelines.

"I will strain through a jelly bag because we prefer redcurrant jelly (don't like pips)." JamNan

"I used a handkerchief instead of muslin for boiling the pectin out of the pips... But not planning on making jelly, as I like the bits." Fraxinus

Need inspiration? Try some of these recipes:

More jam and chutney recipes | Add your own recipe


Recommended equipment

To sum up Mumsnetters' wisdom from the boards - don't use a slow cooker to make chutney, but a microwave is OK.

"I can't see how it would work in a slow cooker as boiling off the water from the ingredients is essential and a slow cooker retains the water. You need the steam to be able to escape which is why chutney is best cooked in a wide open pan. I would warn you I've never got chutney done in less than 3 hours of simmering." PolterGoose

"I made a really surprisingly good impromptu tomato, pepper and parika (garlic, onions, spices, vinegar, sugar and water as well) chutney last week. I just bunged all the ingredients in a glass bowl and microwaved to a sticky jammy mass. It worked brilliantly but leave to cool a bit before getting it out or you might burn yourself and decant into a sterile jam jar and screw lid down tight. Keep it in fridge." MoreBeta

It can be cheaper to buy filled jars than empty ones:

"I'm planning to make jam this year... and was surprised at the price of brand new jars compared to the cheapest food-filled ones in the supermarket (ie significantly more)." AramintaDeWinter

"I have been known to run out of jars, and it is cheaper to buy a jar of 'value' jam, and throw away the contents, than it is to buy a new, clean, empty jar." 4merlyknownasSHD


The process of making preserves

It's important to get the consistency right, unless you're looking for an excuse to make wine.

"Strawberries are low in pectin which is the 'magic thingie' that makes jam set... I don't use jam sugar but sometimes if the pectin is low and the jam isn't setting I will add Certo, citric acid or lemon juice." JamNan

"I made some blackcurrant jelly this week and it came out very well - blackcurrants are bursting with pectin, thus ensuring a good set, so it's a useful one to try if you're starting out." brillig

"Don't use jam sugar, IME it can make the jam a bit chewy." LakeFlyPie

The right consistency can also boil down to timing:

"I've made jam but overboiled it so it's rather hard. I used a sugar thermometer as well as doing the wrinkle test. Should have checked more frequently once nearly setting (did every five minutes but this was too long in hindsight)." LovingKent

If your chutney is tasting too salty, WilsonFrickett suggests re-boiling it "with a spot more liquid and chunks of raw potato. The potato should absorb the salt."

Other useful tips:

"Do not make jam when the weather is hot because it was unbearable standing over and stirring the boiling liquid but completely worth it in the end." AWeeBitConfused

"Do small batches while you get the hang of it. Then if it goes wrong, you haven't wasted a lot of ingredients." Fraxinus


Bottling and sealing

making jam

With the preserve made and the jars sterilised ready for filling, the next goal is to bottle your creation so that it stays edible, or preserved.

Piemashandliquer asked: "What do I do about the lids? Do I have to do anything with them? I don't have any wax discs, but I do have some baking parchment, should I use that before I screw the lids on?" 

"You can just use the jam jar lids straight, but if you keep it for a long time they will tend to rust through. Wax discs don't help much though in my experience. What are really ideal if you have them are instant coffee jars with plastic lids as they don't degrade the way the metal ones do." Takver

"I boil the lids in water for a few minutes. Choose lids with a plastic coating on the inside then you won't have a problem with rust." JamNan

"I've found even plastic-lined lids do rust through in time, though, with chutney. Chilli chutney is the worst for eating its way out of the jars!" Takver


What to do with your creation

"Jam - eat straight away. Chutney - usually improves with keeping one to three months (mellows flavour, leaving it less vinegary)." Lilymaid

"Yep, chutneys need a good few months. I didn't know this, and gave away jars of sour apple pickle. Opened a jar last month after it had been lurking in the cupboard for a few months and it was amazing!" WilsonFrickett

"Jam and chutney make lovely Christmas presents." JamNan



top bananas

Jam recipes in Top Bananas!

The Mumsnet cookbook has a couple of rather brilliant (if we do say so ourselves) recipes featuring jam.

Try the amazing Raspberry Jam Chicken (click here to watch our making of video) or The Jammiest of Tarts.


Last updated: almost 3 years ago