The very best festive jams and preserves

How to add a festive touch to your preserves cupboard

What better way to face the bitter chill of a mid-winter morning than with a warm and festive breakfast providing the ammo to fight Jack Frost. If opting for Father Christmas’ snack of choice (a mince pie and brandy) lost its appeal after day one of Advent then your next port of call should be a festive preserve. Whether homemade or shop-bought, a merry marmalade or jovial jam decking the porridge bowls or topping your toast will brighten up even the gloomiest morning, so here are our recommendations.

Home-made Cranberry Jam

Cranberries are more than just a turkey’s best friend. Brilliantly tart and a wonderful ruby red, the fruit and its taste have become synonymous with Christmas, so make use of this gem while it is abundantly adorning the supermarket shelves. A quick and easy recipe that can be popped into kilners and given as a gift when arriving at a Christmas party, you will need:
500g fresh or frozen cranberries
500g caster sugar
Rind and juice of 1 lemon
1 small eating apple (peeled and grated)
(Optional: 1tbsp of cinnamon and/or a few drops of vanilla essence)
Sterile jam jars/kilners (washed thoroughly and heated in an oven at 175 C for 15 minutes).
-Wash and dry the cranberries and leave in a covered bowl overnight with the sugar and lemon juice (with cinnamon and vanilla, if using).
-Into a jam pan or heavy saucepan, put the sugar and juices with 3 tablespoons of the cranberries, apple and lemon rind. Add 200ml water and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the apple has softened, the sugar is dissolved and the mixture has thickened.
– Add the rest of the berries and bring the mixture up to the boil for 5-8 minutes (depending on how much shape you want the cranberries to retain).
-When pleased with the consistency, take the pan off the heat and leave for about 10 minutes before ladling into jars. Seal tightly and turn upside down to make sure they are airtight.

Ginger Apple Jam
Ginger is a staple in any Christmas concoction that wants to pack a warming punch. Aiding digestion, easing congestion and boosting the immune system, it’s an undeniably festive taste that might help you survive a season of over-eating and under-heating. Here is how to make a jam with a hot bite that will be as welcome on the breakfast table as with your savouries at tea-time.

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500g bramley apples, peeled cored and sliced
500g sugar (caster or granulated)
½ inch root ginger
50g chopped crystallised ginger, 1tbsp of the ginger syrup
Rind and juice of 1 lemon
Muslin bag and sterile jars
-Put the lemon juice, sugar and 175ml water in a heavy pan with the sliced apple. Add a muslin bag filled with the bruised root ginger, apple cores and lemon rind. Cook over a medium heat until soft and pulpy (approximately half an hour).

– Remove the muslin bag and carefully squeeze any liquid from it back into the pan (this contains pectin).
-Add the sugar, crystallized ginger and ginger syrup. Stir gently while simmering, until the sugar is dissolved.
-Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 15 minutes, or until setting point is reached.
-Cool slightly before decanting into jars.
(How to test for setting point: when you start preparing the jam, place three saucers in the freezer. When the jam has boiled for said time, remove from the heat and place a teaspoonful of the jam onto one of the chilled saucers. Put the saucer in the fridge to cool and then push the jam with your finger: it is set if a crinkly film is formed where you push it. If it hasn’t set, return to the boil and re-check intermittently every 5 minutes).
Mulling Syrup

Complete with all the tastes and aromas of Christmas, a mulling syrup is a fast-track to banishing the winter blues. This syrup is perfect for the store cupboard, or a nice touch as a homemade gift-set with a bottle of wine. It can be used in a 1:6 ratio (or to taste) with red wine, cider, ginger ale or lemonade, or can add a sweet glow to your coffee. It is delicious over poached pears or ice-cream, soaked into a dense sponge cake, or even as a glaze on sausages.

500g sugar
2 oranges
12 whole cloves   
6 whole allspice or 1 large teaspoon ground allspice
4 cinnamon sticks
1 nutmeg, ground
Small piece of sliced root ginger or a knot of crystallised ginger
2tsp cardamom seeds
1 litre of water

-Put the cloves into the peel of the whole oranges and place with all the other ingredients in a large saucepan. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved and then leave on a low heat for 20 minutes.
– Leave to cool before pouring through a fine sieve.
– Re-heat until hot and then pour into sterile bottles (which have been washed and heated through in the oven).
If there is no time in your Christmas schedule for D.I.Y, we’ve found some lovely preserves you can pick up from the shops to enjoy yourself, or giveaway to share the cheer.

Fortnum and Mason do a great Christmas Preserve Trio (£19.95 for 3 x 340g jars) with an ‘extra jam spiced preserve’, ‘curd’ and ‘spiced medium cut marmalade’ to combine fruit and spice, and all things nice. (, 0845 300 1707). They also do a beautiful Ginger Preserve (£3.75, 340g).

Tiptree really push the cranberry boat out using the classic orange compliment with an indulgent alcoholic twist in their Cranberry & Cointreau Conserve (£2.49 for 340g)., 0800 3281749.

Wonderful with boxing day cold meats, or even with ice-cream, Daylesford do a very attractive Organic Mulled Wine Jelly (£5.99, 250g). Or, for Christmas day, team your turkey with their Organic Cranberry Sauce (£3.99 for 200g), available from or 01608 731 700.

To kick-start your morning, Harrods are selling a zesty marmalade with a difference, a medium cut Tangerine Marmalade with Orange Liqueur (£4.95, 340g). The pot positively sparkles,, 0845 605 1234.

And if you’d rather just tuck into the mulled wine than trouble over mixing the mulling potion, Taylerson’s Malmesbury Syrups sell pre-made bottles of magic that will make any wine or cider taste exactly like Christmas should. They come in 250ml bottles (£6.99) and can be bought in a giftset of four with any of their other delightful syrups of your choice for £17.50., 01666 577 379.
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* See our jam recipe guide