The idea of making jam used to freak me out a bit. (They didn't exactly teach us how to make jam from scratch in culinary school.) A few years ago I decided it was time to overcome my fear. Luckily, my friend had already made a batch that summer, so I had someone to hold my hand through the process.
It seems that I had nothing to be nervous about after all: it was way easier than I thought. And the jam was truly better than anything I had tasted.
Making homemade jam-or chutney or fruit butter-is a great way to preserve the best fruits of summer. You don't need to go to culinary school either. Just follow these easy tips and you'll never be afraid of jam making again.
1. Pick Your Preserve. Try chutney, a spicy-sweet-sour condiment made with fresh and dried fruit, sugar, vinegar and chiles, alongside simple roasted meat or pan-seared tofu steaks. Fruit butter and jam (see recipe below) are similar; both are sweetened fruit spreads, but instead of adding pectin to set the mixture as you do with a jam, with fruit butter you cook down the fruit mixture until it's thick and sticky. Both are delicious when spread on whole-grain toast or stirred into plain yogurt.
2. What Flavor? Some of our favorite chutney combos are nectarine and dried cherry; blueberry and dried apricot; cherry and golden raisin. If you're making fruit butter, try blueberry with lime juice and zest; plum with orange juice and zest. Strawberry and peach jams were our staff favorites.
3. Prep & Measure Your Fruit. Remove stems from berries and hull strawberries. Pit cherries and halve. Peel stone fruit, like peaches and nectarines, if desired, then pit and cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
4. Get Cookin'! Follow these easy recipes for delicious preserves.
5. Do the Can Can. You can safely store your preserves in the refrigerator or freezer. But for long-term storage, process your jars in a water bath. Our step-by-step tips will help you can safely.
Fresh Fruit Jam
ACTIVE TIME: 20-40 minutes | TOTAL TIME: 20-40 minutes (depending on type of fruit)
MAKE AHEAD TIP: Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks, in the freezer for up to 1 year or at room temperature for up to 1 year if processed in a water bath. | Equipment: Six to eight 8-ounce canning jars
Nothing beats the taste of fresh fruit jam. And when you make it yourself, you can control the amount of sugar used.
12 cups prepared fresh fruit, peeled if desired
1-2 cups granulated sugar or brown sugar (see Note)
1/2 cup water
1 1.75-ounce packet "no sugar needed" pectin (see Note)
1. Combine fruit, sugar to taste and water in a Dutch oven. Bring to a vigorous boil and crush fruit with a potato masher until desired consistency. Add pectin in a steady stream, stirring constantly. Stir until the pectin is dissolved. Bring to a full rolling boil (a boil that cannot be "stirred down"), stirring constantly. Boil, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
2. If freezing or refrigerating, ladle the jam into clean canning jars to within 1/2 inch of the rim. Wipe rims clean. Cover with lids. Let the jars stand at room temperature until set, about 24 hours, before refrigerating or freezing. Or process in a water bath to store at room temperature.
Makes 6-8 cups.
Per tablespoon (strawberry): 12 calories; 0 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 3 g carbohydrate; 0 g protein; 0 g fiber; 1 mg sodium; 32 mg potassium.
- 3/4 cup maple syrup (or honey) or 1/2-1 cup Splenda Granular can be used in place of 1 cup sugar.
- We tested Fresh Fruit Jam with "no sugar needed" pectin from Ball and Sure-Jell. We prefer this to regular pectin because you can adjust the amount of added sugar. Regular pectin cannot be used in its place because it requires more sugar to ensure a proper set. Although Sure-Jell's instructions indicate that you cannot use less sugar than called for in their recipes, we had successful results using less (as indicated in our recipes).
By Carolyn Malcoun
When associate editor Carolyn Malcoun came to Vermont to attend New England Culinary Institute, she knew she didn't want to work in a restaurant but knew that she wanted to do something in the food industry. Luckily she discovered EatingWell, where she's able to combine her love of food and writing.
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