Sunshine in a jar- Sarah Savage on making jams

Made with love and bursting with fabulous flavours and colour, Sarah Savage of Norfolk-based Essence brings you some jam-packed recipes.

Sunshine in a jar


Made with love and bursting with fabulous flavours and colour, Sarah Savage of Norfolk-based Essence brings you some jam-packed recipes. 

Pictures: Matthew Usher

I can’t remember not loving jam. When I was growing up, I was very fortunate to have a mother who was, and still is, always there for me. Our house had a coal-fired Aga in the kitchen, where endless meals were produced for family and friends.

Mum made her own bread long before the advent of bread machines (which she now has), so I remember hot, freshly baked bread with butter oozing through it, rounded off with jam.There is no better way to start the day than with good quality bread, whether it be nutty, seedy loaves or sourdough style white ones. Spread on some unsalted butter and high fruit jam and it just gets better and better.

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As a generalisation, making jam is best done when there is an abundance of fresh fruit, whether it’s from your garden or PYO. We are so lucky in Norfolk to have such a wide range of fruit farms and producers who provide PYO, giving us all the opportunity of enjoying the season’s harvests when they are at their peak. There is no better time to enjoy good fruits than when they are naturally ready. If you are dedicated enough to grow your own fruits, it’s a gift.

The other bonus to making jam is that you don’t need to use visually perfect fruit. If you are eating raspberries, generally we tend to like them looking lush and lovely, but if you are making jam you can use all shapes and sizes – just nothing with any mould anywhere. The fruit does have to be in good condition.

I find making jam relaxing. I know there will be people reading this who have struggled with strawberry jam and getting it to set, but it’s well worth the perseverance, and isn’t always tricky. Combining strawberries with other high pectin fruits can make it easier. I use copper preserving pans for jam and marmalade making. They are an initial investment, I know, but they have fantastic heat dispersing qualities, which reduce burning in hot spots.

It’s also great to see some hotels and B&Bs making their own or buying in top quality jams and marmalades, giving breakfast the full recognition it deserves. One such hotel is Strattons Hotel, in Swaffham, which uses Essence jams and marmalades on its breakfast tables as well as offering other delicious local produce for customers.

I would class good jam as one which is high in fruit and low in sugar and tastes first and foremost of fruit. It may sound obvious, but some jams contain so much sugar, that they are immediately sweet and then you have to work out which fruit it is.

Have a look at the label when you next buy jams, the fruit per 100g and sugar per 100g will be on the label. You are looking for a higher fruit percentage than sugar for a really good jam, it may not be the cheapest, but it is well worth it, you may even find you use less.

The Apricot & Amaretto was the first jam I made when I set up Logans in 1992 in Norwich. It was for a loyal customer who wanted some home-made jam with his freshly baked croissant, and I thought he would enjoy it. The rest, as they say, is history. When I sold Logans in 2004, the foundations were there for the Essence range. I hope you have a go at trying the recipes which can be found under 'recipes'. They are some of my favourites and it has been lovely to revisit them.

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