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Fresh sound fruit should be used, which is not wet or mushy, and it should be slightly under-ripe, as very ripe fruit has a reduced sugar content and will affect the setting and keeping quality of preserves. Fruit should be sorted, trimmed, washed gently and patted dry, but hot water should never be used, and low-pectin fruit should be washed as little as possible. Only peel, cut or stone fruit just before cooking, or the quality will deteriorate.

Acid is added to some fruit during cooking to extract pectin, improve colour and prevent crystallization – it should be added to any fruit with a low acid content, and to any vegetable jam. Acid may be in the form of lemon juice, citric or tartaric acid, redcurrant or gooseberry juice. To 41b/2kg fruit, allow 2 tablespoons lemon juice or Β½ teaspoon citric or tartaric acid or ΒΌ pint/125ml redcurrant or gooseberry juice.

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