Muslin cloth for cooking jam is a familiar and traditional piece of equipment for makers of jam. Reusing muslin cloth is also a traditional practice that is environmentally and economically sensible. Finding the right muslin or an alternative will improve your use of time and the quality of the jam.
3 Uses of muslin cloth in jam making
1. Use lemons instead of Setting Powder
A lot of recipes for jams talk about using a bag made out of muslin to put lemon rind or lemon seeds in, then put the bag in the pot with the fruit and continue with the recipe. Lemon seeds and rind are natural sources of pectin (thickening) in jam. Using lemon reduces the need to use Jam Setting Powder. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this powder, because it is derived from fruits that are high in it, but I try as much as possible to cook jam more naturally and cheaper. Placing the lemon rind and lemon seeds in a muslin bag also makes it so much easier to remove from the jam mixture at the end of the cooking. I just cut a square of muslin to the size I want, put the seeds or whatever in the middle and then tie it up with string or curling ribbon. Do not use a rubber band as the flavour of the rubber might interfere with the flavour of your jam
2. Removing excessive moisture
The fruit for pickles, like green tomato pickles, is drained after the initial cooking stage before the spices and thickening is added and recooked. The most traditional pickles cooks like to drain the fruit through cloth rather than just using a colander or sieve. The fruit is then ready to continue with the recipe.
3. Removing unwanted fruit pulp and seeds
The opposite result is used for jellies, such as Crab Apple Jelly. In this case, the fruit pulp is pressed through the muslin cloth and the moisture is kept, the pulp and seeds are discarded and the jelly process continues with the liquid.
Back to the actual material used to make the bag. I used to go to Spotlight and ask for the cooking muslin as it is cheaper than the sewing muslin. All was good for several years. They would grab a roll of it from behind the counter and measure out what I needed. After one use I would throw out the material with the seeds etc in them. All good. Then a couple of years ago, they told me there were packs of 5 metres of the stuff. Just grab those. So I did. But when I started using it, the holes between the weave and warp were so large that the lemon seeds would fall through! This meant that I was continually picking out the seeds from my jam mixture. Not fun! I asked the staff at Spotlight if they still had those rolls of muslin behind the counter. They told me, no, and the only alternative was the sewing muslin. They showed it to me and the weave and warp were “loose” without being able to stick your finger through the holes. Yes, it was much more expensive, but the material is robust enough to be able to stand several washings before needing to throw it out. So, based on the number of uses I get, this alternative is actually cheaper than the old “cooking” muslin.
The pillowcase solution!
Now for larger uses. When my mother was making her relish and pickles and needed to remove the liquid, she used an old pillowcase. I continued to use her old pillowcase until I lost it. I think made a large cone out of the muslin with a double layer of the material. And that worked, but eventually, the seams came apart. So I looked for another old pillowcase. The one I chose from my linen press just did not allow the liquid through quick enough. So, I went to the local Big W and looked for a pillowcase with the lowest thread count they had, which was 180. This works quite well and it came in a pack of 2, so I have a spare if I lose this one. I’ve found that needing the mixture up and down in the pillowcase draws the liquid out, better than just squeezing the pillowcase.
When making Crab Apple Jelly, my mum usually only made small quantities. Remember it is the liquid you want to keep. My mum would line her colander with enough muslin to form a bag. The colander would sit over a large saucepan. She dumped the cooked pulp onto the muslin, then tied it up into a bag. The liquid would ooze through the fabric, with some gentle pressure, over a number of hours.
If you live near a Spotlight, it can be worth checking out if they stock any muslin. Sometimes a particular store has it under the counter, so you might need to ask. Another alternative is Nisbets Online – they will deliver and a third alternative is Amazon – who call it strainable Unbleached Cheesecloth
Disclaimer: whichwendyswares.com.au is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, please contact