The arrival of May and blackthorn blossoms means one thing: the beginning of berry season. Last month we celebrated humble rhubarb, now it's time for the celebrities of Scotland's fruit calendar to take centre stage.
And with jam making a comeback to the Gin Bothy family, there's no better time to sing the praises of our favourite fresh, locally grown fruit.
There's something special about Scottish berries. Pluck a raspberry off the dreel, crush it against your tongue, and delight in the tart, sweet flavour. Syrupy without being sickly, Scottish berries lend themselves to classic cranachan, light patisserie, and even savoury sauces drizzled over pork.
At the berries
Scots of a certain vintage will remember summer holidays at 'the berries', earning money to pay for next term's school uniform. "Always pick clean," Granny would say, which means not leaving any part of the fruit behind on the vine.
Angus and Perthshire retain a reputation for stellar strawberries and resplendent 'rasps', with Blairgowrie (the 'Berry Toon') producing the Rolls Royce of berries. During the 1950s folks from all walks of life converged on this sleepy town for the berry picking season. Laughter and song filled the dreels and come evening work relaxed into frivolity — or fisticuffs!
Today the Strathmore Valley still provides ample berry-picking opportunities, as does Angus, Fife, and the Scottish Borders. Luckily, this time you can keep your spoils for jam instead of swapping them for a school uniform!
Gin Bothy Jam
Today we continue the berry-picking tradition by making hand-foraged berries into our homemade jam recipe. Our jam-to-gin story began 10 years ago when Kim ran a rural coffee shop and farm shop, and entered a homemade jar of jam into the World Jampionship.
You read right: world jampionship. Oh yes, we take jam seriously in Scotland. But it's not just the Scots who are soft on soft fruit. The rest of the world seems daft on Scottish berries, too. Most of Scotland's fresh Angus berries go to high-end retailers in England because they taste so good, and exports to Spain are worth £10.5m.
Meanwhile, at the Jampionship (then held at Dundee’s Food and Flower Festival), Kim won a category for her recipe. The success inspired her to convert a rented bothy into a production kitchen called the ‘Jam Bothy’.
Following the fruit calendar of Scotland she produced a range of jams and marmalades and sold them in the shop and local markets. Rather than see leftover fruit juice go to waste, Kim's mum suggested adding the juice to gin. The Jam Bothy became the Gin Bothy in 2015 and the rest is history.
10 years on we're delighted to bring our 'Jam Bothy' range to retail. We make our jams and marmalades by hand from traditional jam recipes in our bothy kitchen at Kirriemuir. Our range includes whisky, gin, and rum marmalades and raspberry & gin, rhubarb & ginger and strawberry & champagne jam and our popular chilli jam.
In June we'll relaunch our range at the Royal Highland Show, a special event as it's the first we attended when we began 10 years ago.
What Is Jam?
Jam is made from pieces of fruit, usually chopped or crushed and cooked with sugar until the pectin releases and the mixture is thickened to a spreadable consistency. From simple and seasonal raspberry to chic lingonberry confit or savoury bacon jam, this sticky-sweet spread provides comfort and flavour in equal measures.
Sweeten early rises with traditional toast on jam, dollop onto grilled cheese, or infuse a fruity cocktail with the taste of summer. Jam was our starting point, so forgive us if we wax lyrical!
Read on to learn how to make jam and for a gin cocktail recipe.
What Ingredients Do You Need to Make Jam?
- Fruit: For first-time jam makers high pectin fruits are best. When you add sugar to berries, plums, apples, citrus fruits, and quince they will thicken easily due to their high pectin content.
- Sugar: Sugar helps create the magical web of pectin strands that gives jam its quivering texture. Sugar also acts as a preservative to prevent mould and maintain the jam's glossy, rich colours.
- Pectin: Jams with less sugar require added pectin to prevent gloopiness. Luckily, pectin occurs naturally in berries! Boiling fruit releases their pectins. When combined with sugar and acidity, the pectins form a gel essential for creating jam.
What Equipment Do You Need to Make Jam?
- A heavy-bottomed large pot or saucepan: Time to dust off Granny's jeelie pan! Jam needs to bubble for a long time without the fruit burning, so a large saucepan with plenty room for evaporation is best.
- Jam jars: You'll need a heatproof, sterile, sealable glass container to ladle your hot, jewel-like jam into. Don't wait until your jam's cooled otherwise there's a risk of mould developing. A strong seal is essential. In the beginning, we collected loads of Demi Johns for storing our jams.
- Heatproof spatula or wooden spoon: Metallic utensils react with acidic food. Jam tartly demands to be stirred with a wooden spoon!
What Fruits Can You Jam?
What fruits can't you jam? From jewel-like blackberry to fragrant orange, you can make jam from a wide variety of fruit:
- Berries: A classic and well-loved favourite. Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries contain less pectin than other fruits. Give them a helping hand with a mound of sugar and extra pectin.
- Stone fruit: sweet and juicy, plums, cherries, and apricots make delicious jam. Stone fruits are also lower in pectin.
- Citrus: orange is high in pectin therefore perfect for jam. Orange jam and marmalade are different beasts, with marmalade only using the citrusy peel.
- Pome fruit: also pectin powerhouses, apples, pears, and quince make indulgent, autumn jams perfect for chilly starts.
- Tropical fruits: refreshingly juicy and easy to make, pineapple and passionfruit is an exciting alternative to regular jam. Tropical fruits are nearly devoid of pectin though, and must be combined with pectin-loaded fruit or extra sugar to create a bonding gel.
What’s the Difference Between Jam and Jelly?
The key difference between jam and jelly is that jelly is made with fruit juice while jam contains whole chunks of fruit.
Further clues lie in the texture. Jam has lumpy, homely texture. Often it's more rustic, containing whole pieces of fruit and seeds. Jelly on the other hand, has a smooth but firm texture and looks glossy and clear.
What is the ratio of sugar to fruit when making jam?
A good rule of thumb for the ratio of sugar to fruit in jam is 1:1.
For example, 450g sugar to 450g fruit.
The amount of sugar for making jam will vary depending on whether you're using a high-pectin fruit. Adding lemon to raspberry jam recipes helps to add pectin and achieve the right consistency.
Can You Make Jam Without Pectin?
You can make jam without pectin, just be sure to pick ripe fruit that's naturally high in pectin. Simmer the fruit in boiling water with sugar to activate the fruit's natural pectin. This is the traditional method we remember Granny using!
How long do you boil jam for?
When making jam, it's crucial not to boil it for too long or you'll lose the flavours. For a strawberry or raspberry jam recipe, place the berries and sugar into the pan on a low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. If the sugar melts and sticks to the pan then the heat is too high.
Bring the fruit mixture to a rolling boil. You know it's right when you can't calm the rolling boil with a spoon! Cook for 3-5 minutes until the jam reaches setting point. You'll know the jam's close to setting point when the boil slows and the mixture thickens.
How to test jam?
You can test hot jam using two methods:
- Thermometer: Using a sugar thermometer, bring the jam to 105 °C.
- Wrinkle test: The 'wrinkle test' is a piece of old wisdom. Spoon some jam onto a plate then push your finger through the jam. It ought to wrinkle instead of flooding back to fill the gap. The old ways are our favourite!
Does homemade jam need lemon juice?
Lemon isn't added to jam simply for zesty flavour, it plays an important role in the science of jam making.
Why add lemon juice to jam?
If you didn't already know, pH balance is critical in food. In terms of jam, the pH level affects how jam sets. As you already know, pectin is released from fruit cells when the fruit is heated with sugar. However, when pesky pectin is loose, pectin strands repel one another. Lemon juice prevents this from happening by encouraging pectin to gel.
Lemon also prevents the growth of bacteria.
How to Store Homemade Jam
Before storing jam properly sterilize the glass jars in soapy, hot water. Once they're dry, fill with hot jam. Don't let the jam cool completely before adding it to the jar. Wax discs placed on the jam's surface before sealing will help reduce exposure to air.
Store your jolly, red jars in a cool, dry place and keep jars out of direct sunlight. Finished jam should be used within 12 months of making.
How long will homemade jam last?
Not long if you live in our house!
Once opened, keep jam in the fridge and use it within a month. That shouldn't be hard when you can slather delicious jam made from local raspberries on scones, croissants, or even pair it with cheese!
Gin Bothy Jammy Cocktails Busting With Summer Fruit
Berry picking is woven into the seams of Scottish culture - there are even bothy ballads dedicated to it!
The Gin Bothy started out as the Jam Bothy, where we made fruit jams from local berries. Instead of wasting the leftover juices, we began infusing gin and our Raspberry Gin was born.
Today we infuse our gin with sweet and juicy locally-grown berries. After, we use the berries to create our own Merry Berry Jam! Everything is used and nothing is wasted, a wholesome way of living that we like to honour with a jammy gin cocktail!
Read below for a ballad-worthy summer recipe.
1 tsp Jam Bothy Raspberry jam
Cranberry juice (splash)
Sugar to taste
200ml of fizzy mixer and ice cubes
Optional sprig of mint
- Muddle - Muddle raspberries together at the bottom of a serving glass (we used a jam jar!). Add in some sugar if you like things sweet.
- Shake! - Add cranberry juice, a splash of lime, a measure of Gin Bothy Raspberry Gin and a spoonful of jam into a cocktail shaker with ice then shake, shake, shake!
- Pour - Pour over the berry mixture. Add extra ice then top up with something fizzy. Fancy folk may finish with a bit of mint!