I started making jam about 6 years back when I got married. It was soemthing I always wanted to learn and it was both easy and hard. The first time you make jam can be daunting. There are so many ways to make it and it can be overwhelming.
The first thing you need to do is decide whether or not to use pectin. Pectin is a natural substance from fruit and plants that helps the jam gel. It makes making jam more predictable because you just follow the package instructions but some jam purists dislike it because it is a foreign element to the fruit. The first time I made jam I did not have pectin so I decided to try making it without. My jam came out well and so I decided I didn’t need pectin. That’s the only reason I don’t use it. If you want to make a pectin jam there are some wonderful recipes out there. If you don’t want to use pectin then continue reading!
I’m going to give you a generic jam recipe. It’s how I make most of my jams (there are some exceptions) but this will work for your classic single fruit jams such as strawberry.
You will need the following items in order to make this jam.
Small Glass jars with twist lids (mason jars)
A large good quality pot x 2
A candy thermometer
Canning funnel (optional but highly recommended)
3 small dishes put in the freezer
I’ll explain what these are for as we go along. Ok on to the how to.
INGREDIENTS FOR REGULAR JAM
3-4 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
INGREDIENTS FOR NO OR LOW SUGAR BABY JAM
2 lbs fruit
1/2 cup honey OR 1/4 cup honey + 1/4 cup sugar OR 1/2 cup sugar (Baby must be 1 year to
1/3 cup unsweetened apple juice
First you are gonna get your fruit. I’m going to be making strawberry jam as my example. Your jam will only taste as good as the ingredients you put in. This is why most serious jam makers make large batches of jam to last the year when the fruit they desire is in season. I always go to the farm and pick my fruit myself. That way I can make sure I pick the ripest or best quality fruit. I also highly recommend organic fruit if you can find and afford it. If you can’t get to a pick your own farm try at least to get to a farmers market or buy local fruit.
You want to wash your strawberries well and then hull them and cut them in half or quarters depending on their size. I use a strawberry huller cause I go through sooooooo many strawberries every year but you can easily do this with a knife.
Next mash the berries roughly with a masher or if you want a less chunky jam you can blend them. Pour the berries, sugar and lemon juice in the pot and mix it well so all the berries are covered with sugar. NOTE: if making baby jam pour those ingredients in pot. Then stick the candy thermometer onto the side of the pot and heat it up over high heat. You want to get that jam to a full rolling boil. Every so often give it a stir or mash.
Now is where the tricky part begins – timing the jam. There are various ways todo this but honestly it comes with experience. If you time it wrong it’s easily fixable so don’t worry. So how do you time your jam. There are three ways to help.
1. The temp of the jam should be 220 degrees. This can be tricky because it depends on altitude. Your jam might be done a bit below or a bit above 220.
2. It should pass the freezer test (more on this in a moment)
3. Approx 10-15 mins per 2lbs of jam. This might be a bit higher for baby jam because of the added juice.
Start by giving the jam 10 mins at a rolling boil for every 2lbs of fruit you put in. (So if you put in 4lbs then give it 20 mins.) After this you are going to take out one of the small plates from the freezer and put a spoonful of jam on it. Put it back in the freezer for a minute. Remove it and push it with your finger. It should wrinkle if it’s done. Cut the jam in half with your finger if it’s done it should not run back together.
Here are some visuals
If the jam is not done let it boil another few mins and try again until you think it is ready. Turn off the heat and let it cool for 10-15 mins.
Next, comes the canning. Get your jars ready and a ladle. I highly suggest the use of a canning funnel. It makes life much easier. Fill the jars up to the bottom of the jar neck. Do not be tempted to overfill or the jars will explode when you give them the water bath.
Seal the jars tightly and fill up your second large pot with warm water. Don’t put hot jars in cold water or they might explode. Put the jars in the water and heat on high until it boils. Boil the jars for 10-15 mins. This will seal them preserving the jam for ages.
There you have it easy peasy jam.
If you didn’t time your jam right don’t worry it’s easy to fix.
Jam is too thin – dump the