- Kitchen Craft preserving starter set, 4 pieces: £10, hobbycraft
- VonShef 9L Maslin pan jam preserving starter set bundle: £32.99, Amazon
- 5-Pieces preserve starter set by Kilner: £69.99, Wayfair
One of the things I love about the start of autumn is making jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys and all manner of other preserves. I made a batch of apple and chilli jelly this week… the first of the season.
Late summer is spent foraging for fruit such as wild raspberries, elderberries and blackberries. They’re added to the redcurrants that were harvested from our allotment in and are made into mixed fruit jelly.
You really should try it – it’s really easy, satisfying and far superior to most shop bought stuff. Get yourself one of these preserve starter kits and you’ll be quickly on your way to making your own.
Each has its own merits however, I’ve chosen #2 as the best of the preserve starter kits for a number of reasons. The most important component is the jam/maslin pan. It needs to be large, sturdy and made of the right material. It needs to be made of a non-reactive material such as stainless steel. Reactive metals such as aluminium and untreated cast iron can give a metallic taste to the food and can also cause discolouration. The pan also needs to be a good conductor of heat, for example, copper so that it achieves the high temperatures necessary in jam-making.
The next most important component is the thermometer. It’s not absolutely essential but, if you’re not entirely confident with using the cold saucer method, a thermometer is the foolproof way of knowing that the magic 105ºC/220ºF temperature has been reached.
A jam funnel is very useful if you’ve got shaky hands like mine, however buying the other components are less necessary. I have a huge store of different sized & shaped jars – I never put the finished jars of honey, mayonnaise, pesto etc into the recycling. With a little pre-planning, you shouldn’t need to buy jars specially for preserving. Just make sure ones you’re reusing have no chips or cracks and have their original airtight lids.
Having said all that – yes, both #2 and #3 come with jars as part of their kits. The former has the edge over the latter as the single 1-litre jar is much less practical than 6 smaller ones. If you store a litre of jam, jelly, chutney etc in a single jar you’ll have to eat all the contents within a couple of weeks of opening or it will go off. Also, you should store your preserves in the fridge once they’ve been opened. I usually have too much other stuff in the fridge to accommodate a litre-sized pot of jam.
In the years I’ve been preserving, I’ve never used a jar lifter (I use a pair of kitchen tongs), a jar wrench (just twist a dinner knife between the space between the lid and the jar) or a magnetic stick (again, I use kitchen tongs). So that’s 3 of the 4 Kitchen Craft items that would be neglected at the back of the cupboard. You could buy each preserve making component you think you’ll need singly – but it’s often cheaper to buy them as a bundle.