Thursday, 28 April 2011

How to Make Jam

Now you would think that at the ripe old age of fifty two, that somewhere along the way I would have learned how to can jam. The fact is, I was too intent on running away from my Mother to take much notice of her domestic forays. I sincerely regret it now. I realize not only do I not know how to can jam, I don't know how to can anything else either. Nor do I know how to sew anything more complicated than a straight hem or how to bake a pie. This is just the short list of things I can't do. I'm not a total moron, I actually know how to do all kinds of things, I'm just lacking on some of the domestic stuff.

So I've decided to remedy that and have enlisted my friend Shelley, the ultimate domestic goddess to teach me all she knows. Our first lesson was how to make strawberry jam. It was much easier than I thought it would be and I love the idea of making it myself without all the weird chemicals they put in everything these days. So without further ado, here is jam making 101.  Total time was about 30 minutes, start to finish

We used the recipe that came with the package of Liquid Certo Pectin

Tips for jam making success.
-sugar helps jam to set so don't cut down on the amount called for in the recipe
-do not double your recipe as it may not set, small batches are better
-measure ingredients carefully, prepared fruit or juice should be measured in a glass measuring cup  after chopping or crushing. Sugar should be measured in a dry measuring cup
-use firm ripe fruit or unsweetned frozen fruit that has been thawed in the fridge
-crush berries with a potato masher NOT in a food processor
-check your canning jars for any chips or cracks in the rims, don't use them if they are not perfect as this can affect the seal, you can re-use canning jars but must use brand new sealing lids each time
-it's important to used steralized jars, lids and utensils when preparing cooked jams
-using clean jars, pour boiling water over and in them as well as the lids  (can have the lids in a bowl to do this) leave them in the boiling water while making the jam, this is to steralize them ( you could also steralize the jars by putting them in the oven for 10 minutes at 225 F, the lids should have boiling water covering them, don't put them in the oven, just the jars)


-Hull and crush 3/4 cups of strawberries. Put them in a pot and add , 7 cups of granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of lemon juice, mix this together and bring to a hard boil for one minute.

-Take off of the stove and add one pouch of the liquid pectin.

-As you stir it in, a lot of foam will be produced.  Stir and skim off as much as possible for 5 minutes for a nice clear product.( you can save the foam and use it like jam right away, or put it on ice cream etc as a nice sweet topping)

-pour out the boiling water in your canning jars and fill them right away with the hot cooked jam to about 1/4 of an inch from the top of the jar.

-VERY IMPORTANT- wipe the jar rims with a clean cloth to make sure there is nothing to prevent a perfect seal

-put the lids on and make sure the rings are screwed on very tight
- let cool at room temperature until the jam has set. Can be stored for up to a year at room temperature, refridgerate after opening

The jam turned out awesome but the process led me to ask some questions. Like what  the heck is pectin, why do we use it, what did they do in the old days when Certo wasn't available? So I did a little research when I got home and here is what I learned about the jam making process.

What is pectin?
Noun: A soluble gelatinous polysaccharide that is present in ripe fruits and is extracted for use as a setting agent in jams and jellies. 
Pectin is a "gum" found naturally in fruits that causes jelly to gel. Tart apples, crab apples, sour plums, Concord grapes, quinces, gooseberries, red currants and cranberries are especially high in pectin. Apricots, blueberries, cherries, peaches, pineapple, rhubarb and strawberries are low in pectin. Under-ripe fruit has more pectin than fully ripe fruit. Jellies and jams made without added pectin should use 1/4 underripe fruit.

Many recipes call for the addition of pectin. Pectin is available commercially either in powdered or liquid form.These two forms are not interchangeable, so use the type specified in the recipe. Powdered pectin is mixed with the unheated fruit or juice. Liquid pectin is added to the cooked fruit and sugar mixture immediately after it is removed from the heat. When making jellies or jams with added pectin, use fully-ripe fruit.

Pectin is concentrated in the skins and cores of fruit; that is why some recipes call for those to be included.

Commercial pectins may be used with any fruit. Many homemakers prefer the added-pectin method for making jellied fruit products because fully ripe fruit can be used, cooking time is shorter and more precise and the yield from a given amount of fruit is greater.

"The advantage to using pectin, is that you can make jam with a much shorter cooking time, which produces a product that tastes fresher. It also gives you a higher yield for the amount of fruit because you're not boiling all the liquid away until it reaches the gelling point. The results are also predictable and generally foolproof. It WILL gel most of the time."

"On the other hand, there is some charm to the long-cooked traditional jam flavour that a pectin-based jam doesn't have.The fruit almost caramelizes and there's a rich undertone to a jam made that way. However, some fruits just don't have sufficient natural pectin to gel properly - and so you either have to boil the heck out of it or be satisfied with a compote-y textured jam."

"The purpose of the lemon juice is to provide an acid for the pectin's magic to work. Any acid will do, but lemon juice usually contributes a pleasant, and not overwhelming flavor. If you look at the structure of a pectin molecule, it has branches. These branches need to become ionized in order for the pectin's colloidal properties to work. The acid allows the ionization to happen. Once that happens, the pectin chain can start attaching to other pectin chains, which creates pockets that hold onto liquids and other stuff, which in turn creates the gel that we recognize as jam. Someone with a lot of jam-making experience can intuit how to adjust the ratios of sugar, acid, and pectin to optimize the gelling properties."

Some tips from the Woman's Home Companion Cookbook:

"Tough Jelly: too little sugar for the amount of pectin; also overcooking."
"Syrupy Jelly: Too much sugar for the amount of pectin; juice too low in pectin or acid content or both."
The book also states that you can test for the amount of pectin in the fruit by gently stirring together 1 tablespoon of the juice with 1 tablespoon of alcohol. If a large mass of jelly is formed, the juice is rich in pectin. If several less firm pieces of jelly are formed the juice is moderately rich in pectin. And if only small flakes is poor in pectin.

Want to make your own pectin? Here is a recipe using green (unripe) apples

green apple pectin
as many pounds of green (unripe) apples as you like
double the amount of cups of water

yield: approximately one cup pectin stock per pound of apples

1. stem & coarsely chop apples, blemishes are fine to leave in but discard any parts gone bad, bruises or worm bits.  make sure to leave cores and seeds in.

2. place in non-reactive pan (stainless or enameled iron only) and add water. bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. stir a few times throughout to make sure all apples get saturated.

3. line a colander with cheesecloth or butter muslin and place over a bowl. pour in cooked apple mixture. let drain for 2 hours.

4. return strained liquid to pan and boil down by half.

place in fridge to use in 2 weeks, freeze for up to 2 months, or
hot water bath can for larder storage up to a year. if you choose to hot water bath, leave 1/4 inch head space and process for 10 minutes.

2/3 cup of good apple pectin stock will be sufficient to set 4 1/2 pounds of medium or low pectin fruit to jam.

to make jelly use equal cups of stock & sugar, and some added lemon juice. generally 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to 3 cups stock/3 cups sugar will do it.
Do you have any experience making jam?
Do you have a favorite recipe you would like to share?

Join us next time for a "how to make homemade wine from fresh berries" tutorial

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