Do you make your own fruit jam/jelly? Do you have any hints for a newbie?

I’m not a huge fan of most spreadable, fruit based treats because most of them are just dramatically over sweetened for my taste. If I wanted a sugar bomb, I’d reach for a hard candy. I did recently sample a European made, sour cherry spread that was just wonderful. I’m going to try to replicate that today. I know full well that canning jam requires precise recipes and careful procedures if you want to create shelf stable products that will last for months in your pantry. That’s not currently my goal. On the other hand, creating a tasty jam that will last for a few days in your fridge seems to be as simple as put fruit in pan, add a bit of lemon (plus maybe other flavors) and sugar to taste. Cook over medium low heat until thick while using a potato masher to break up the chucks. Is it really that simple? Do you have any advice or recipes that you’re willing to share?

If you don’t want it to store, pretty much what you said, will work for some fruits. Do check your your fruit for pectin content first though (just look it up) if you want it to set, or you’ll maybe just get syrup. You can add powdered pectin, or some apple, preferably tart apple, underripe is fine, as it has a higher pectin content, if the fruit you’re using doesn’t contain much naturally.

It’s hardly rocket science making one that will store, just using equal weight of sugar and fruit with no other additives can make a good jam with the right fruit, but it’s the high sugar content itself that acts as a preservative, so ‘refrigerator jam’ is probably what you want.

I was surprised how simple the actual process was, after all the tedious prep work of cutting up fruit and sterilizing jars. Over a year later, my jams are still good.

The simplest is the recipe in the Sure Jell packet for freezer jam - I have a friend who swears by it and if I had freezer space, I’d go that route myself. The only “trick” if you can call it that is to measure the ingredients carefully and time the cooking precisely. I recommend measuring everything into bowls before starting so all you have to do is dump and set a timer. And stir constantly as recommended. Also have your jars ready to fill so your jam doesn’t sit while you mess with that.

Good luck and happy jammin’!!

Yes it is that easy. I make small batches with whatever I have around. Marmalades with citrus fruit and jams with other fruits. One I have on hand a lot is chilli jam. All that is in it is verjuice, lemon juice, sugar and a mix of red capsicums and whatever chillis I have on hand. The current batch was cayenne peppers and birds eyes. I usually use a little powdered pectin because I don’t like to cook the life out of the fruit to get it to set and I use far less sugar than recipes recommend. It only takes a few goes and you don’t need recipes to throw one together.

I use Suregel low sugar. Most times I go with strawberry. If Alton Brown were watching me I’m sure he’d have some ideas, beginning with “Get out of the kitchen, Philistine!” But this is how it goes:

Chuck strawberries into the food processor and puree the suckers. I go for daiquiri smoothness but I suppose one could leave chunks if one is into strawberry slugs. Then follow the instructions with the pectin for strawberry jam. After ending up with strawberry syrup a couple times I found this particular instruction to be vital:
** Boil the smashed fruit, add the pectin mixed in with a cup of sugar, boil that for a minute before you add the rest of the sugar because [science or some shit]. Add the rest of the sugar, boil it for another minute or two then into the jars. When raspberries or blackberries go on sale I smash 'em and boil 'em and strain through an Egyptian cotton 800 threadcount pillowcase (it’s clean, I don’t sleep on it). Follow the instructions–but really, boil that pectin with the fruit before you drop the sugar bomb or you’ll get syrup.

The package says to heat process it (for me in Denver that would mean boiling each batch for 20 minutes or so. Balls to that. This might be danger but after I add the rest of the sugar I boil it up for 2 minutes and jar it. It keeps just fine for over a year and nobody’s ever gotten botulism from my stuff.

I agree commercial jams are over-sweetened. We use a low/no-sugar pectin from Ball. This is the time of year for picking wild blackberries from our local trails - the low-sugar recipe works pretty well - I think I still have a jar from last year’s harvest. Agree also on the comments about planning and organizing - do the sterilization of the jars before preparing the fruit - have everything laid-out and the process goes very smoothly.

ISTR that the pectin and sugar work together- neither is sufficient by itself.

This shouldn’t need to be said, but it does: Please don’t re-use the seals. My Alabama granny used to re-use seals all the time and when we’d go for a visit in the summer, a trip down the rut cellar :slight_smile: would disclose a few dozen jars of What-the-sweet-Jebus-is-it? metamorphosing on the shelves. Very Lovecraftian. I swear they were staring at us like in that early Spielberg TVM.

Many thanks to all for the replies. I’ll pick up some low sugar pectin and start experimenting with my hand picked pie cherries.

It’s worth noting though that if given a choice between a sweet, spreadable gel and a nicely tart syrup, I’ll go for the syrup every time.

I will not be doing any canning today. Straight from the pan to the fridge or baguette for me.

Yes. In case the OP is not sure, that is why the lids (use once) are separate from the threaded part (reusable).

Another tip: do not overfill the jars - leave about a half-inch to an inch room at the top of the jar. I think this varies a little, but read and follow the directions from your recipe for your specific fruit.

Funny how that made my mouth instantly water. :wink:

Quarter inch head space is the norm.

Recipes for shelf-stable foods should be followed to the letter. Sugar is a preservative and shouldn’t be tampered with unless you have a specific recipe to do so.

You can make jam without using pectin, but it’s a royal PITA, as you have to cook the jam/sugar mix until it is eight degrees above boiling point for your elevation and it’s easy to burn it. Pectin negates that problem.

A bit of lemon zest and some mint works wonders for jam.

Freezer jam can be modified to whatever sweetness you decide, as it is not a shelf-stable product.

I used to make a spiced mulberry jam from the mulberries in my backyard but haven’t for the last two years because the trees have grown to tall more me to harvest. The year before last we put down cardboard to catch the falling berries and we barely got enough for one jar. The birds and squirrels get to them first, just like with our strawberries.

Anywho, I am not an expert jam maker by any means. I do not know how to mess with gelatin sheets or pectin. A sliced Granny Smith apple per pound of mulberries, a little bit of lemon juice and 4 cups of sugar, cinnamon and cloves made wonderful jam. No (extra) pectin needed.

We make jam every other year, depending on consumption. The use of pectin really depends on the sweetness of the fruit and your patience to stir constantly until the jam reaches gel temperature. Even using a heavy Le Creuset dutch oven and watching it carefully, I’ve managed to burn jam. We had to throw out an entire batch of marionberry, as it was tainted by the burned bit on the bottom. Using pectin this year (I finally was able to convince my wife that it’s not some horrid chemical from ConAgra), it all came out perfectly.

OK, jam made and it came out nicely, IMHO. I used the low sugar Sure-gell and stuck with the recipe precisely, almost. It called for three pound of sour cherries and I was just a bit short so I added a peeled and sliced Granny Smith apple just to bring it up to weight. With the advice and assistance of my sister. I did go ahead and can the jam in a water bath. Today, all the lids are sealed, it’s nicely gelled and tastes pretty darn nice. It’s still pretty sweet for my taste and I wish I had cut the fruit up a little finer. Chunky is one thing but this a bit much. Still, I learned and I’ll do it better next time.

Many thanks to all who replied.

An immersion blender is your friend when it comes to making jam; throw the fruit in the pot and when it starts to cook, zap it a few times with the blender. No cutting needed. You can get a decent one for $30.

I prefer a potato masher, wielded briefly once the fruit is softened. I like to retain some texture.

Glad your jam turned out well, OP! I just introduced a friend to jamming last night. I made apricot, she made mixed stonefruit. Mine was stunning, hers was… eh… Whoops!

For future reference, fridge jam can be easily made in the microwave, too.

And I hope you like jammin’, too.

I’ve made red currant jelly. No pectin needed.

Put the fruit in a pot and crush the fruit a little to get it wet
Cook it until the berries turn pale
Strain the juice from the skins and seeds
Add sugar (I think I used one part juice to one part sugar, I used the Joy of Cooking recipe)
Cook until the “jelly” stage
Pour into clean bottles and seal them.

I don’t bother sterilizing it after sealing, because I leave the jelly in the fridge. You can keep an open bottle of jelly in the fridge for months, so how dangerous can it be to put freshly made jelly in the fridge? It’s too sweet and sour to get botulism, and I haven’t had any problems with mold.

Currants are extremely sour, and the jelly is delicious.