How To Make Jam — A Beginner Tutorial


Strawberry, blueberry, currant, raspberry, blackberry,boysenberry, loganberry, gooseberry, ad infinitum. This is the basic any-berry method.

Simple jam made without store bought pectin requires only three ingredients: fruit, sugar, lemon juice. Simple and inexpensive, particularly if you are growing your own fruit.

Making your own preserves is one of those projects that you end up saying, ” Wow! I didn’t know it was that simple.” It is.

You could use store bought pectin like Certo or Sure-jell, but here are a few reason not to.

1. Using store-bought pectin drive up the cost per serving. Alot.

2. Contrary to a what a popular jam site says, using store bought pectin requires more sugar than basic country jam. More sugar, more expensive, less healthy.

Do let’s dive in.

Strawberry jam, blueberry jam, raspberry jam, any berry jam.

Ingredients:

1 cup of crushed fruit

1 cup sugar

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Procedure:

1. Crush the fruit.

Some recipes will try to encourage you to throw the fruit in a blender or food processor. Don’t. The resulting jam ends up with a very hollow flavor.

Crush the fruit with a potato masher or even a super clean soup can to extract all that fresh berry flavor.

2. Stir all the ingredients together in a ridiculously large non-aluminum (non-reactive) pot.

These days most modern pots are not aluminum.

For this particular recipe, I would use the deepest sauce pot I own. Not quite a stock pot, but nice and deep.

Why such a big pot?

Well, as you bring the jam to a boil, it will froth up like crazy. Even as much as 3 times its original volume.

3. Bring it to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently.

Watch it. If the jam is going to boil over, this is the time. Some people add a teaspoon of butter to reduce foaming, but I have a use for the foam so I never add butter. Your choice.

4. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle boil. Stop stirring.

Reduce the heat so the the bubbles keep coming up, but nothing too furious.

Some people stir through the whole process. I don’t. You want to occasionally draw the spoon through to be sure your not burning the bottom. But if you stir the whole time, you are reducing the temperature and increasing the cooking time. I am just to busy for that silliness.

However, if you are terrified of burning it and this is your first time, there is a comfort to stirring constantly. Your choice.

4. As the jam starts to thicken, test for sheeting.

“Test for what?!”

All right, now settle down.

Sheeting is simply the name for how the jam appears as it drips off the spoon.

I use a non-slotted metal spoon. Scoop up some of the boiling jam and slowly dump it back in. It is the last little bit that you are going to watch.

As the jam is just starting out, you will notice that it drips off the spoon in several places.

When the jam is ready it will “sheet.” The drips will pull towards one another to make a more gloppy big drop. As the drops pull towards one another that gooey bit of jam between them is the “sheet.”

I will try to capture a picture of in the next couple of weeks as strawberries come into season here.

6. Remove from heat and skim off the foam.

Using a large metal stirring spoon skim the foam off the top of the jam. Most people dump it, but I reserve it for another goodie.

Time to make a decision.

Are you going to eat it in the next couple if weeks or would you like to can it for much later?

Today, I will assume you are going to eat this first delicious attempt. A post on processing will follow.

If you are going to eat it relatively soon or you are testing the sugar content (more on this later,) simply pour it into any clean glass or pottery container. Not plastic, ’cause it just might melt. If you let the jam cool in the pot a bit, a clean sour cream container would work fine. Pop it in the frig. You are done.

Now, who is going to do the dishes?

Troubleshooting:

Too sweet or too tart– everyone has different tastes plus every year the berries are slightly different. Try this recipe then increase or decrease the sugar from there. I usually find this a bit sweet for my strawberries, but better with strawberry-rhubarb or blueberry. Don’t be afraid to play with it. That is how you learn to make the best jam.

Yes, the more little batches you make the better you will get.

Too runny — it wasn’t cooked long enough. Call it a “sauce” and use it on waffles or over ice cream. My first jam experience resulted in 6 pints of blueberry sauce. It was delicious.

What to do with the skimmed off foam:

Fold it into whipped cream to ice a cake.

Mix it with cream cheese to make a delicious fruit dip.

Fling it at your enemies. It sticks!

Smear it onto waffles immediately and invite me over.

Frugal Berry sources:

Inexpensive jam doesn’t come from store bought berries. Here are some other ideas.

Your garden

Farmers’ Market — especially just at closing time. You just might be able to strike a good deal, because the farmer wants to unload them and not take them back to the farm

Pick-your-own — check for local U-pick places by calling your county extension agent or try these links:

Pick Your Own.org

or

Local Harvest.org

Other beginning canning tutorials:

How To Make Jam — The Canning Supplies

How To Make Jam — The Easy Canning Process

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam — without added pectin

How to Raw Pack Fruit With Simple Syrup

Strawberry Lemonade

Blubarb Jam — Blueberry Rhubarb Jam without added pectin

What are you going to try?

Any problems or questions?

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