Friday, October 9, 2009

Jam Session

I've been asked a lot of jam questions lately. So, here are a couple thoughts on jam. I am certainly not an expert, but I happen to have an entire counter-ful of canned jam I made this summer, which I think prompts the questions.

Pectin Matters: I've found my jam turn out the very best when I use a "no sugar needed" pectin. That way, I can put way more fruit than sugar in it, and the flavor is amazing (it's actual flavor instead of just sweet). Those pectins don't need the sugar to set up, so you can sweeten it to taste. It just makes it more expensive, since fruit can be pricey.

Agave: I've been substituting agave for sugar in some jam recipes. And by substituting, I mean instead of 8 cups of sugar, I use maybe 2 cups agave. (Agave is at least 4 times sweeter than sugar). It's definitely a different texture. More liquidy--like a fruit spread. I LOVE it, and it produces a more flavorful, less sugary "jam". I think it's perfect for jam, ice cream, toppings, pancakes, etc. But, if you are craving good, old-fashioned jam (as J does), it may leave you wanting.

People have asked me for specific jam recipes. I don't really have a favorite ONE. It seems that each pectin is a little particular, so use the recipe that comes with your pectin. I just made a couple batches of blackberry jam (photo above) with Ball brand no sugar needed pectin, and it turned out wonderfully!!, I'm lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest, where blackberries are literally undesireable, uncontrollable weeds that grow all over the place and produce oodles and scads of delicious berries. I also used the Pomona's Universal Pectin (also a "low sugar" one) earlier this summer for cherry jam and it was terrific. So, those two definitely have my recommendation. I do still use sugar in these, just not nearly as much.

For spiced peach jam, which has been wildly popular, use the recipe that comes with the pectin, but add a 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon, allspice, and cloves for each 3 lbs (4 c chopped) of peaches that you use. Am I making sense? So, if you're using a recipe that calls for 6 lbs of peaches (or 8 cups of chopped peaches) add 1 teaspoon each cinnamon, allspice, and cloves.

I've used both water bath canning for jam, and the "turn it upside down" method many times each--all successful.

If you are a jam beginner, I'd recommend starting with a water bath canner, a utensil set (jar lifter, lid magnet, etc), pint jars, brand new lids, and rings, and no sugar needed pectin. Then decide on a recipe (comes with the pectin) and go for it!! If you live near me, I'd be happy to help you. If you don't, ...well, maybe you should move closer, because I probably really miss you.

I've made a truckload lately and will be giving some as gifts. I'll post on how to decorate them quite adorably later.

Here is a favorite recipe for quick, yummy, and easy Peach Pineapple Freezer Jam.

3 c peeled, finely chopped peaches
3 c sugar
1 can crushed pineapple with juice
1 sm. pkg peach or apricot jello
Bring peaches, sugar and pineapple to boil. Cook, stirring for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add gelatin. Stir until dissolved and pour into jars or freezer containers. Freezes.

2 love notes:

Happy Mom said...

Wow!! You make me want to make some jam!

Sarah Ringer said...

Yummy! I have only made strawberry jam and rhubarb jam and this post makes me want to try that spicy peach jam and try the "sugar substitute" or the less/no sugar pectin. What a great fun, fall activity!!