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Food & Wine: How To Make Jam
By James D.Murray. I have been asked how about my recipe how to make jam. With berry season on its way, it’s good to be prepared in order to take advantage of some old talents that get lost in our super market world. [Click On Image For Full Story]
Ingredients. Fruit – preferably fresh, but frozen (without syrup works, too)
Pectin (it’s a natural product, made from apples and available at grocery stores (season – spring through late summer) . It usually goes for about $2.00 to $2.50 per box. You’ll get best results with no-sugar needed pectin, whether you choose to add sugar or not!
Jar funnel ($2 at Canadian Tire or a True Value Hardware, and often grocery stores; and available online – or order it as part of the kit with the jar grabber.
Sugar – About 4 cups of dry, granulated (table) sugar. Yes, you can substitute an equivalent amount of honey or agave. For the no-sugar recipe.
Lemon juice – 1/4 cup per batch. While it is not always necessary , as many fruits and berries have sufficient acidity to ensure a good gel or “set”, I usually add it, just to make sure, and it does not affect the flavor
At least 1 large pot; I prefer 16 to 20 quart Teflon lined (taking care not to overheat the pots) pots for easy cleanup.
Large spoons and ladles
1 Canner (a huge pot to sanitize the jars after filling (about $30 to $35 at mall kitchen stores, sometimes at big box stores and grocery stores.).
Ball jars (Grocery stores, like Safeway carry them, as do some big box stores – about $7 per dozen 8 ounce jars including the lids and rings)
Lids – thin, flat, round metal lids with a gum binder that seals them against the top of the jar. They may only be used once.
Rings – metal bands that secure the lids to the jars. They may be reused many times.
Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars)- Big box stores and grocery stores sometimes carry them. It’s a tremendously useful to put jars in the canner and take the hot jars out (without scalding yourself!).
Jam Making Directions
This example shows you how to make either Strawberry jam or Strawberry – Raspberry – Blackberry Jam – also called Triple Berry Jam . But you can use this recipe to make any type of jam; where there is a difference, I will point it out! The yield from this recipe is about 8 eight-ounce jars (which is the same as 4 pints).
Step 1 - Pick the berries! (or buy them already picked)
It’s fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better quality ones!
I prefer to grow my own; which is really easy – but that does take some space and time.
As mentioned in the Ingredients section; you may use frozen berries (those without syrup or added sugar); which is especially useful if you want to make some jam in December to give away at Christmas!
Above and at left are strawberries and blackberries that I picked at a pick-your-own farm. If you want to pick your own, here is a list and links to the pick your own farms.
How much fruit?
Jam can ONLY be made in rather small batches – about 6 cups at a time – like the directions on the pectin say, DO NOT increase the recipes or the jam won’t “set” (jell, thicken). (WHY? It is easier and faster to get an even heat distribution in smaller batches. It takes about 8 cups of raw, unprepared berries per batch. For triple berry jam, I use 4 cups of mushed (slightly crushed) strawberries, 1 cup of raspberries and 1 cup of blackberries. For strawberry-only jam; you’ll need 6 cups of mushed strawberries.
Step 2 – Wash the jars and lids
Now’s a good time to get the jars ready, so you won’t be rushed later. The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a “sanitize” cycle, the water bath processing will sanitize them as well as the contents! If you don’t have a dishwasher with a sanitize cycle, you can wash the containers in hot, soapy water and rinse, then sanitize the jars by boiling them 10 minutes, and keep the jars in hot water until they are used.
NOTE: If unsanitized jars are used, the product should be processed for 5 more minutes. However, since this additional processing can result in a poor set (runny jam), it’s better to sanitize the jars.
Put the lids into a pan of hot, but not quite boiling water (that’s what the manufacturer’s recommend) for 5 minutes, and use the magnetic “lid lifter wand” to pull them out. Leave the jars in the dishwasher on “heated dry” until you are ready to use them. Keeping them hot will prevent the jars from breaking when you fill them with the hot jam.
Step 3 -Wash and hull the fruit!
I’m sure you can figure out how to wash the fruit in plain cold water.
With strawberries you must remove the hulls. With other berries, just pick off any stems and leaves.
Step 4 – Crush the fruit
Then you just mush them up a bit – not completely crushed, but mostly. Most people seem to like large chunks of fruit but crushing them releases the natural pectin so it can thicken. You’ll need about 6 cups, mushed up.
If you want seedless jam, you may need to run the crushed berries through a Foley food mill (at right). They cost about $30.
It works well for blackberries, not so well for raspberries, and no one tries to remove strawberry seeds
Step 5 – Measure out the sugar
Depending upon which type of jam you’re making (strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, apricot, peach, grape, etc.) you will need to use a different amount of sugar, jam and pectin. The precise measurements are found in each and every box of pectin sold. For most fruit; like berries, with the low sugar pectin, you’ll need 4 cups of sugar. With regular pectin, about 7 cups of sugar. Mix the dry pectin with about 1/4 cup of sugar and Keep this separate from the rest of the sugar. If you are not using sugar, you’ll just have to stir more vigorously to prevent the pectin from clumping. This helps to keep the pectin from clumping up and allows it to mix better!
Step 6 – Mix the berries with the pectin and cook to a full boil
Stir the pectin into the berries and put the mix in a big pot on the stove over medium to high heat (stir often enough to prevent burning). It should take about 5 to 10 minutes to get it to a full boil (the kind that can not be stirred away).
Why use pectin? You may run into grandmotherly types who sniff “I never used pectin!” at you. Well, sure, and their generation took a horse and buggy to work, died of smallpox and ate canned meat and green beans that tastes like wet newspapers. Old fashioned ways are not always better nor healthier. Pectin, which occurs naturally in fruit, is what makes the jam “set” or thicken. The pectin you buy is just natural apple pectin, more concentrated. Using pectin dramatically reduces the cooking time, which helps to preserve the vitamins and flavor of the fruit, and uses much less added sugar. But, hey, if you want to stand there and stir for hours, cooking the flavor away, who am I to stop you! Having said that, there are some fruits that have naturally high amounts of pectin (see this page for a list) and they simply don’t need much or even any padded pectin.
Notes about pectin: I usually add about 20% more pectin (just open another pack and add a little) or else the jam is runnier than I like. With a little practice, you’ll find out exactly how much pectin to get the thickness you like.
Another tip: use the no-sugar needed pectin. You can still add sugar to it and it cuts the amount of sugar you need from 7 cups per batch to 4 cups or less! And it tastes even better! On the other hand; I have never had success with the No-sugar pectin without adding ANY sugar. It always turned out runny and bland. You might want to try using the no-sugar recipe with a mixture of sugar and Splenda; sugar and white grape juice, or just white grape juice – that will cut down the sugar, but still preserve the flavor.