Initially, I taught myself to can for two reasons–homemade pickles and homemade jam. Over the last 3 summers, I have learned a bit about making jam and thought I’d share a few tips and tricks here.
If you like thicker jam, soak your fruit (prior to pureeing) in 1 cup sugar for 30 minutes; pour off juice
Puree fruit in a blender or food processor to desired consistency then pour into bowl or pot; if you want thicker jam, pour the fruit through a fine sieve and pour off some of the juice
For every 8 cups of pureed fruit, I add the juice of half a lemon and all the pulp inside (not including the pith or the skin that divides the pulp into sections). I carefully take my thumb and start at the middle then push out the pulp to the edge of the lemon and stir into pureed fruit. It helps the jam “set” and also increases the acidity (important safety issue).
“Less is More”—I have found that many jam recipes use so much sugar that you don’t really taste the flavor of fresh fruit. I usually use about half-three quarters of the sugar then use pectin made for low sugar recipes. (This product now is widely available in most canning sections at grocery stores, etc.)
Don’t be afraid to heat jam to boiling—will help it “set up” better, but make sure you stir and not have the heat so high that fruit burns to the bottom
As it is getting closer to being ready, the jam will take on a translucent or glassy appearance.
Rather than using a spoon, I have found that dipping a fork into the jam gives me a better indication of its being ready. I dip the prongs of the fork straight in about ¾ of the way then pull straight up. I turn the fork over and watch how the jam drips down. If it gels before it hits the stem, it’s usually ready.
Make sure that fruit does not drip down sides of jar as you are scooping/pouring. I learned that lesson by not wiping a jar off very well around the rim, and then preparing it as I would my other jars. Later in the day, I heard an explosion in my kitchen. The jar lid had shot up and off the jar, and jam had sprayed all over my ceiling. Now, if jam slips down the side of the jar, I just put it aside, wash it out and save it for another canning process.
Don’t be afraid to try new flavor combinations. Some of my favorite creations:
Blackberry peppercorn cayenne
When gift giving, make sure you list all the ingredients on your tag. Even a little cinnamon can be dangerous to someone who has an allergy.