In a Jam
Homemade Jam is the definition of LOVE. Especially in my home where the only person who eats it is my husband, so it’s a lot of work for one person.
It’s also something that we enjoy doing together. He thinks it’s funny that I love making jam and experimenting with new flavors but I don’t like how sweet it is, despite my notorious sweet tooth. This year we decided to make his favorite jam, jalapeño strawberry.
Making jam is an age old art that is being replaced by “freezer jam.” I prefer to save my freezer space for meat and veggies, so we like our jam canned. It’s really not that hard or time consuming and I love the look of little pint jars full of translucent color. If you haven’t made homemade jam before then you are in for a treat (literally).
The Perfect Equation
(Pectin + fruit) + sugar / heat = JAM
Pectin – Not all pectin is created equal- There are two kinds of pectin, liquid and powder. Always use the pectin specified in your recipe. Pectin is what causes your jam to gel, so the wrong kind can throw off the amount and make your jam runny or jello. I’ve only used the powder kind and have never had a problem.
Fruit –Picking fruit for jam is a little different than picking them for regular use. Since pectin is naturally occurring the ripeness and variety will affect your jam. Aim for under ripe or barely ripe fruits for your jam. Overripe will most likely cause your jam to run. Some fruits have enough pectin to make jam on their own.
Start with the pectin and fruit in your pan first. Once they are cooking pretty good then continue.
Sugar – Jam is loaded with sugar, its what aids the gel formation. If you’re a sugar substituter than beware of what and how much you swap for sugar’s alternative buddies. Read this article from the National Center for Home Food Preservation on low sugar canning than proceed with caution. Jamming Newbie? Then look for a specific low/no sugar jam recipe.
Temperature – Heat is the glue of jam making. When all these ingredients come together at the right temperature for the right amount of time then BAM!… jam!
This magical place is called the “jellying point.” The jellying point is 8 degrees higher than the boiling point of water for your elevation. You’ll know you’ve reaching it when you pull your spoon out and it sheets off the spoon.
Rules of Jam Making
1) Never skimp on the sugar. Since this is my normal life philosophy, it makes since. A good rule of thumb is ½ lb of sugar to every pound of fruit.
2) As tempting as it is to just double your recipe, DON’T! Only do one batch at a time so the ratios of sugar, pectin and fruit aren’t thrown off.
3) Finely chop your fruit. Puree can have too much liquid for a good gel to form. Although I’ll admit I used my blender for this batch, we did have to boil it down a lot more.
4) Butter makes everything better. Bet you weren’t expecting that! Adding a ½ t – 1 t of butter to your jam while it is boiling will keep it from foaming a ton.
5) Stir Frequency and watch closely – since it has to boil rapidly for a long time its easy for jam to boil over, and create a huge horrible mess, or burn. Neither is as fun as tasty jam.
6) Give it a rest – jam is not an instant state, it actually takes about 24 hours to properly set up, so resist the urge to start spreading.
Process as Usual
Processing is simply the water bath method, so short and easy. Fill hot jars a 1/2” from the top. Wipe the mouth of the jar and top with boiled lids and screw tops. Place in pot of water making sure the water covers the tops of the jar. Cover and Boil for 10-15 mins. Voila!! Good thing you have 24 hours to make some homemade bread to go with your jam.
Here’s my husband’s favorite jam recipe.