During the last year there have been media reports about a regulation which stipulates a sugar content of 60% in jam. The regulation refers to jam that is made using fruit, sugar and water or fruit and sugar. DEFRA has opened consultation to consider changes to this regulation.
“The Regulations require as a general rule that jam, extra jam, jelly, extra jelly, marmalade, jelly marmalade and sweetened chestnut puree have a sugars content (expressed as soluble dry matter content) of at least 60%.” They also state that “ For products labelled as “reduced sugar”: the product must have a soluble dry matter content of not less than 25%, and not more than 50%.” (1)
In Denmark, France and Germany, the regulation is not enforced and jam with 55% is permitted. However they use different methods to make their Jams. Their products generally lack the traditional gelled consistency of British Jam.
The role of sugar in jam should not be seen as merely about the percentage. In the UK the 60% regulation has its origins as far back as the 1920s. As part of their work during that decade, researchers at Long Ashton Research Station, Bristol investigated the role of sugar in prolonging the shelf-life of jam. The recommendation was 60% sugar, for jam with no additives and a good shelf life.
It is the correct proportions of pectin, acid and sugar that produce the characteristic gel in jam. Different fruits vary in their amounts of pectin and acid. Cooking apples, black currants and damsons, for instance have a high ratio whereas strawberries have little. The acid helps to give the bright colour to jam and also prevents crystallization of the sugar. The ratio of these three substances determines the consistency of the jam. This ideally should be gelled, spreadable rather than stiff or glutinous.
My jams that keep well have up to 5% of the weight added from natural sugars found in the fruit. A further 60% of the finished weight of jam comes from the addition of granulated sugar. If the total percentage is less than 60% the jam may ferment and if the percentage is much more than 65% there is a danger that the jam will crystallise in storage.
Please support my petition for Real Jam: Keep Jam as Jam!
Closing date 15th May 2013
(1.) Food Standards Agency. The Jam and Similar Products Regulations 2003. Guidance Notes http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/jamregguid_rev.pdf