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Is traditional firm British jam under threat from new rules that will allow a lower sugar content?

runnyjamIt may be just a storm in a jam jar, but not according to Tessa Munt, a Liberal-Democrat MP who last week led a Commons debate on a proposal by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to permit products with a lower sugar content to be sold as jams.  The current minimum to merit the name is 60%, and the proposal is to lower it to 50%.  Supporters say this will allow fruit preserves with 50% sugar to be sold to the Continent as jams.  Critics say it will lead to runny jams, more in the Continental style, and a shorter shelf life.

It is true that French and German jams are thinner than ours on the whole, and that they go mouldy more quickly.  People over there seem to prefer that consistency rather than the firmer set we go for in the UK.  It is also true, however, that UK firms will still be able to make jams with 60% or more sugar content; it is just that others with a lower sugar content might appear on the shelves alongside them.

I make raspberry jam in a very traditional way, boiling up the raspberries with an equal weight of sugar.  I boil for 11 minutes, then let it cool for 10 minutes before transferring it into warm jars.  It makes the best quality raspberry jam with nothing else added, and it sets nice and firm without being gelatinous.  For other fruit jams I sometimes add pectin.  With brambles (blackberries) I add Bramley apples to help get a nice set, and I use redcurrants to get strawberry jam to set properly.  And I add a little pectin to marmalade so I can reduce its sugar content to give it a slightly bitter tang that I prefer.

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