Perfectly preserved: all the equipment you'll need for making marmalade and jam
There's no need to be daunted by the prospect of making your own preserves – just use Delia's guide to getting the right equipment and you'll be making marvellous marmalades and juicy jams in no time.
Not strictly necessary unless you want to make really large quantities – actually, for beginners, it's better to make small quantities just to get the feel of preserving. Having said that, I do have one – when I make Spiced Damson Chutney, I like to make a lot because, not only am I crazy about it, I always want to give some to friends. There's no point in buying a really big pan. Buy the smaller size, because modern domestic hobs are simply not powerful enough to bring a huge pan of marmalade, or similar, to what used to be called a rolling boil. Stick to a heavy-gauge aluminium pan – it is the best conductor of heat and is not as expensive as stainless steel (but don't leave acid fruit in the pan after it cooks). The capacity of the pan in the photograph (above right) is 15¾ pints (9 litres).
A simple little thing, but so important when you are trying to fill the jars. It prevents sticky blobs spilling over the edges and down the sides.
Ideally, you should invest in some proper preserving jars because they have their own tight-sealing lids that make life much simpler. Look after them and they will serve you year after year and easily justify the initial cost. You can, of course, use commercial jars, but one thing to remember is that the lids for pickles and chutneys must be plastic-coated, as the vinegar can corrode metal. Either way, lids are essential. Cellophane covers won't work for pickles and chutneys. Also, it is important to remember to fill the jars as full as possible, not leaving any gaps.
Preserves should always be sealed while still hot, and the seal is provided by waxed discs – little circles of paper covered with a thin layer of wax – placed over the surface of chutneys or jams, waxed-side down. They are widely available in kitchen shops and stationers, or by mail order.
You can now buy ready-made squares of muslin in various sizes, and these are what are needed to wrap the pickling spices that are suspended in a pan of chutney or the orange pips that are needed in marmalade. Ordinary gauze, available at chemists, does just as good a job.
Personally, I don't bother with the rather badly designed fancy brigade. I just buy stationers' self-adhesive, plain white labels. Labelling and dating is important – you might like to know you still have some preserve left from a vintage year!
Vital – because preserves that are going to be kept for long periods need to start off in spanking clean, sterilised jars – but perfectly simple. Just wash the jars and lids in warm, soapy water, rinse well (again in warm water), then dry them thoroughly with a clean tea cloth, place them on a baking tray and pop them in a medium oven, gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C) for a minimum of 5 minutes. Add their contents while they are still hot.
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