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The only equipment you need to make jam

A red Dutch oven, with a wooden spoon across the top, and lid with a ladle, two spoons, a dish towel and a silver bowl.
The best pot, spoon and scale needed to easily make jam at home. Prop styling by Silvia Razgova and Sean Bradley.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

This story is a component of the feature “Seasons of Preserves: Stone Fruit,” which is part of a four-part series on preserving fruit at home called “L.A. in a Jar.”

Before you go shopping or bring the fruit home, make sure you’re prepared with the proper equipment. Jam-making may bring to mind visions of sterile metal objects and lots of clunky factory equipment, but the truth is, if you’re not canning the preserves (and I’d advise you not to at first), you only need a couple of things.

The one essential is a great pot. I’ve used stainless steel pots and enameled cast iron pots (Dutch ovens) equally and while both work great, the latter is more preferable for its ability to spread the heat across the bottom of the pot, which helps the jam cook evenly.

Because making jam isn’t worth it unless you’re making a large enough batch, always start with at least 3 to 4 pounds of fruit and cook it in a “large,” approximately 7- to 8-quart-or-so, pot. Whatever pot you use, make sure it has tall sides (at least 5 inches) because boiling jam likes to increase in height and splatter. And if you’re cooking in a shallow pan, it can spill over if you don’t keep a close eye on it.

I like to use a large, long-handled heat-proof silicone spatula or wooden spoon to stir the fruit. The long handle keeps my hand away from stinging-hot fruit juice and the wide blade of the spatula scrapes the bottom of the pot efficiently. Don’t use a metal spoon though, since the heat of the jam can travel up the handle of the spoon and burn your hand — trust me on this.

Speaking of hands, while it’s not essential, I recommend gloves. There will be a splattering of fruit juice, and it’s a good idea to avoid boiling hot sugar and juice on your skin. I use a pair of thick (clean) heat-proof gloves meant for gardening, but you can also use some classic yellow dishwashing gloves if you have them (just know that the latter is only good for protecting from splatters; they’re not heat-proof so don’t go grabbing boiling hot jars with them).

In addition, you’ll want to keep a small bowl of cold water and a spoon nearby for skimming the surface of the jam and a ladle ready for decanting the jam into jars or whatever vessel in which you want to store it.

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But before you start to cook, you’ve got to weigh everything you’re using, so make sure you have a good digital scale. If you bake a lot, you’re likely to already have one, but if not, you should get one. Weighing the fruit and other ingredients is more accurate and will allow you to measure, mix and cook everything in one vessel. Less equipment to clean and a better jam? Sounds like easy math to me.


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