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Kitchen Queries

Welcome to Kitchen Queries, where the nigella.com team will answer your cooking or food related questions.  We’d love you to submit some of your recipe problems, dilemmas or queries for us to get our teeth into!

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  • Consistency Of Chilli Jam

    Hi Team Nigella, I recently made Nigella's Chilli Jam and am wondering if I've done something wrong. My jam has turned out just lovely in taste but the consistency is VERY sticky, almost like caramel! Could you tell me where I may have gone wrong? Also, Nigella suggests leaving the jam to cool and thicken slightly but shouldn't the jam be rather warm when putting into jars in order to be sterilized properly? Thank you in advance Tonia

    From the nigella team:

    Nigella's Chilli Jam (from Christmas and on the Nigella website) should have a softly set consistency and from the description that you give we suspect that the Chilli Jam was boiled for too long. When this happens the temperature of the sugar moves from jam setting point (104c/219F) towards what is known as "soft ball" stage (112c/235F). The pectin in the jam will start to diminish and intead the jam will take on a thick, syrupy consistency.

    As pan sizes differ and power output varies on stove tops, it helps to check the boiling mixture regularly to see if it has reached setting point. A sugar (candy) thermometer is useful, or you can use the cold plate test where you drop a little of the mixture on a very cold plate (chill plates in the freezer for a couple of minutes), leave it for a minute and then gently push the mixture with your finger. If the surface of the jam wrinkles and the jam does not flow back then it has reached setting point.

    You need to let the jam stand and cool, so that the jam can thicken and hold the flecks of chilli and red pepper in suspension. This can take 15 minutes and up to 40 minutes (depending on pan size and the temperature of your kitchen). If the jam is too hot then the flecks will tend to sink to the bottom as the jam cools in the jars. However after this cooling time the jam should still be quite warm so bacteria should not be a risk, as long as the jars have been sterilized. The sterilized jars should also still be warm, as if they are cold there is a risk that they will crack when the jam is poured in to them.

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