Enjoy homemade jam

Njut av hemmagjord sylt

Spiced mixed berry jam

This article explains why Swedes enjoy jam so much and includes tips for making jam successfully at home.


♦ Pancakes and jam as a main course
♦ Translating jam into Swedish
♦ Cloudberry jam
♦ Spices in jam
♦ Selected recipes
♦ Top tips for making jam


Swedes love jam! Their consumption per capita is higher than in any other country in the world. Well, actually all I know that they are European Union's top jam eaters, but I figure that must also make them top of the world league too.

Pancakes and jam as a main course

Pancakes with strawberry jam and whipped cream

On one of my early visits to Sweden I remember helping myself to pannkakor med sylt (pancakes with jam) in a canteen, thinking it was a dessert, only to be firmly told that I had taken two main courses. Yes, Swedes really do serve pancakes with jam as a main course!

Waffles with cloudberry jam
Jam with våfflor (waffles)

The reason for the jam addiction is simple: historically fruit had to be preserved to survive their long harsh winters. Of course, this is no longer necessary, but Swedes don't give up traditions easily.

Translating jam into Swedish

Translating jam into Swedish is difficult because it can be one of four words: syltmarmeladkompott or gelé. Which word to use depends largely on the consistency:

• Sylt: a fairly runny jam, ideal for pouring on to pancakes and waffles or stirring into yoghurt or porridge,
• Marmelad: a thicker jam which needs to be spread with a knife,
• Kompott: the same as compote in English, the fruit retains most of its shape,
Gelé: jelly or seedless jam.

In other words, the dividing line between sylt and marmelad is not as clear as in English. However, it is not that clear to Swedes either! I have shown fairly thick jams to Swedes and asked them if it is a jar of sylt or marmelad and not got consistent answers!

Cloudberry jam

Three jars of commercially produced cloudberry jam

Fresh cloudberries are virtually impossible to buy in the UK and in many other countries outside Scandinavia, so if you want some hjortronsylt (cloudberry jam) you will need to buy it rather than make it yourself. It can be bought from specialist suppliers or online.

Spices in jam

For centuries Swedes have loved using spices in their food; jams are no exception. You can enjoy experimenting yourself, and feel very Swedish in doing so. Vanilla, cinnamon, liquorice, chocolate, star anise and coconut all find their way into jams in Sweden, so there is plenty of scope to suit all tastes!

Selected recipes

Raspberry and liquorice jam

Hallonmarmelad med lakrits (Raspberry jam with liquorice) - an excellent combination

Raspberry and chocolate jam

Hallon- och chokladmarmelad (Raspberry and chocolate jam) - a luxury jam for chocolate lovers

Gooseberry and elderflower compote

Krusbärskompott smaksatt med fläder (Gooseberry and elderflower compote) - a classic combination in Sweden

Spiced berry compote

Kryddad bärkompott (Spiced berry compote) - a lovely mix of berries, juniper and star anise

Cherry and vanilla compote

Körbärskompott med vanilj (Cherry compote with vanilla) - cinnamon also works well with cherries

Rhubarb and ginger jam on knäckebröd

Rabarbermarmelad med ingefära (Rhubarb and ginger jam) - almost like a chutney

Rhubarb and strawberry jam

Rabarbermarmelad med jordgubbar (Rhubarb and strawberry jam) - perfect partners

Top tips for making jam


♦ Expect splashes and stains, so wear an apron or old clothes.


♦ If possible, choose fresh dry slightly under-ripe fruit.
♦ Jam sugar is ideal for fruits that are low in pectin such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries and rhubarb.
♦ Be wary of using jam sugar with fruits that have high levels of pectin such as apples, plums, gooseberries and blackberries. Too much pectin can lead to the jam ending up being a bit rubbery.
♦ If you have time, mix the fruit and sugar and leave the fruit to macerate for an hour or so before cooking. This makes it easier to heat the fruit initially without burning.
♦ For fruits low in acidity, the addition of lemon or lime juice aids setting, stops discolouration and acts as a preservative, but can change the taste slightly, usually for the better.


A copper jam pan

♦ Use a pan with a heavy base and made of a good conductor to ensure the fruit is heated quickly and evenly. Copper is ideal and attractive, but expensive; carbon steel is a more affordable choice.
♦ Ideally choose a pan with a wide wide mouth for fast evaporation and quicker setting, but any large pan will do.
♦ Only fill the pan about a third of the way up, so that there is plenty of room for the jam to bubble up without boiling over.
♦ Don't bother with a jam thermometer because it is too difficult for most home jam makers to get reliable and consistent readings. In any case, it is better to be able to choose to have a lightly set or firmly set jam. (The setting point for firms jams is normally 104.5ºC (220ºF).)


♦ Cook fruit slowly at first to extract the maximum amount of juice and pectin. Stir frequently until the boiling point is reached.
♦ Brush round the inside of the pan with cold water whilst the jam is boiling to prevent sugar crystals forming.
♦ Do no stir the jam once it is boiling, but use a wooden spoon to check it is not sticking on the base of the pan. Stirring lowers the temperature and delays setting point being reached.

Setting point

♦ With experience you will learn to tell when your jam is reaching the setting point as the fast, frothy rolling boil will reduce to a slower more relaxed boil. The tiny air bubbles will disappear, the surface will look glossy and the mixture will feel thicker.

A vertical saucer during a test for the set point of jam

♦ To test for a setting point put 3 or 4 saucers in a freezer before you start. When you get near a setting point, remove the pan from the heat and put half a teaspoon of the jam on a cold saucer. Wait 30 seconds or so and then hold the saucer vertically. For a light set, it should move down the saucer very slowly, for a firm set the surface should wrinkle when pressed with a finger.
♦ Lightly set jams taste much better than overset jams. If the jam is under set you could call it sylt and use it in yoghurt or porridge!

Removing scum

A skimming spoon being used to remove scum from jam

♦ Use a slotted spoon or a skimming spoon to remove any scum.
♦ If you can't skim off any scum, stir ½ teaspoon of butter into the jam to disperse it.

Potting up

♦ Let the jam cool for 15 minutes before potting up, otherwise the fruit may float to the top. Stir the jam before potting and seal straight away.
♦ If using twist-on metal lids there's no need to use waxed discs.
♦ Do not move newly filled jars until they are cool and have set completely. Setting can sometimes take a day.
♦ If you intend to keep jam for more than a few weeks ensure that you sterilise your jars and lids carefully and then keep the jam in a cool dark place until required.
♦ To sterilise jars: wash and dry them, then put them in an oven at 140ºC (275ºF, gas 1, fan 130ºC) for 10 minutes. If using Kilner jars, boil the rubber seals, as dry heat can damage them.



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