Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Jam 101

I know it's late in the season to be posting this stuff, but there's still a lot of fruit out there to make jam with and if you're lucky enough to have tucked some fruit away in the freezer, then you can make great jam all year long.    We do. 

Basic ways to make jam
You’ll find that the vast majority of fruit can be turned into jam in several ways: freezer jam with pectin; regular cooked jam with pectin in a pot, jam without pectin in a pot, and baked jam. All you have to do is decide which type of jam you want to make before you start, then make sure you have the right kind of pectin if you need it.

Freezer Jam is made with fresh, uncooked fruit and instant pectin. Make sure the fruit is clean. This jam has the freshest taste and is great for strawberries and mangoes and other fruit that changes flavor significantly when cooked.

The traditional way of making jam is to cook it. You can cook it in a pot on the stove top, or in a crock pot, or in the oven. Often, the fruit is cooked with pectin and then sugar added later. If no pectin is used, then the jam is cooked down until it jells. This means that in order to jell, it might lose a lot of volume. A lot, I tell you. Cooked jams can have a lot of sugar or no sugar at all. If they are canned appropriately, they will store well for a year or more. Just put them in a jar with a new canning lid and process them for canning while they’re still hot.

Simple Fruit Jam Recipes
For those of you who are new to the whole jam-making game, you’ll find that it is easier than you expect and I’ll start you with a few easy recipes to get you going.

The process is pretty much the same regardless of the fruit you use.

Step 1: Choose your fruit.

Step 2: Choose the method of jam you want to use.

Step 3: Get the right kind of pectin if you need it.

Step 4: Collect and wash your jars and lids.

Step 5: Make your jam, put it in the jars.

Step 6: Process the jars for canning, if necessary.

Below, you will find a description of the process I use for each type of jam recipe that I typically use. Following each description, I've given you a simple recipe for each type of jam. 

Freezer Jam
  • Mix the pectin and sugar together well in a bowl.
  • Chop or crush your fruit – a potato masher or pastry blender works fine.
  • Mix the pectin/sugar in with the fruit and stir, stir, stir for at least 3 minutes.
  • Put jam into freezer safe containers.
  • Let sit out for at least 30 minutes.
  • Freeze.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

3 1/3 cups sliced, crushed strawberries
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 tablespoons Ball Instant Pectin for freezer jam Mix the pectin and sugar well in a bowl. Set aside. Finish crushing the berries. Add the pectin/sugar mix to the berries and stir for three minutes. Spoon into freezer safe containers and let sit out for a half hour. Label containers and freeze.  

Cooked Jam with pectin
  • Chop the fruit and put it in a pot. Don’t heat it yet.
  • Add the pectin to the fruit.
  • Add a bit of water if the fruit is dry. You don’t want it to burn.
  • Bring the fruit to a hard, rolling boil. Stir, stir, stir.
  • Boil one full minute.
  • Add the sugar and stir, stir, stir.
  • Bring to a hard, rolling boil. Boil one full minute.
  • Ladle into jars.
  • Wipe rims. Put lids on.

Plum Jam
  • 4 cups chopped plums
  • 4 Tablespoons Dutch Jell All Natural Lite pectin
  • 2 cups sugar
Chop the fruit well and put them into a pot with the pectin. Stir the pectin in well before you turn on the burner. Add a little water (1/2 – 1 cup) if the fruit needs it so it won’t stick to the pot. Heat the fruit mixture stirring frequently until it reaches a full, hard rolling boil that you can’t stir down. Boil hard for 1 minute. Add sugar. Stir well and return to boil. Stir continuously until it reaches a hard rolling boil. Boil for one minute. Check to make sure the jam is coming off the spoon in sheets or double drops. Ladle into hot jars. Cover and process for canning.


Cooked Jam without pectin
  • Chop the fruit and put it in a pot with the sugar.
  • Add a bit of water if the fruit is dry. You don’t want it to burn.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Cook until the jam reaches 220 degrees, sheets or double drips off a spoon.
  • Ladle into jars.
  • Wipe rims. Put lids on.

Black Raspberry Jam
  • 4 cups black raspberries
  • 2 cups sugar
Wash berries. Put berries in a pot and crush them with a potato masher. Add sugar and heat to a low boil. Simmer until the jam reaches the desired consistency – or until temperature reaches 220 degrees. Stir frequently as the jam thickens. Unwatched pots boil over and burn very quickly.

Runny Jam
The worst thing that could happen when you are making the recipes in this book is that your jam might not set. [One thing to note is that sometimes runny jam sets on its own if you leave it alone for a few weeks. If you have the option of waiting before you try to ‘fix’ it, then wait. It might surprise you.]

Runny jam is not a crisis.

Really. There are no jam police who are going to show up at your house and take your children away because you made runny jam. It really doesn’t matter if your jam doesn’t set.

At our house, we call runny jam ‘syrup’. You can use syrup on pancakes and ice cream and as cake topping and as meat glaze.

If you decide you want to turn your syrup into jam that sets, then there are a couple of ways you can do it.

1. Boil it down: The simplest is to put the jam back into the pot and boil it down until it’s as thick as you want. When it comes off a spoon or spatula in sheets or double drips, then it’s going to set.

2. The two pot fix. In a larger pan, heat up all of the jam you want to fix. In a small pan, mix another tablespoon or two of dry pectin in a cup of cold water – it must be cold. Dissolve the pectin in the water and bring it to a boil. Boil the pectin hard for one full minute. Pour the pectin into the jam and stir it well. Bring to a boil and boil hard for one full minute. You should see a noticeable thickening of the jam and it should come off the spoon or spatula in sheets or double drips. Keep boiling until you do.

1 comment:

  1. I've made strawberry freezer jam before, back when we actually had good strawberry harvests (we need to put more beds in), and it was the best freaking thing ever! :)

    Have I ever asked you about making jam with frozen berries before? We'll have to chat about that next.

    ReplyDelete

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