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Making my own strawberry jam

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  • Chris VR Jun 20, 2005 09:44 PM
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This is the year I try making jam for the first time. I've got a flat of strawberries coming from my CSA on Thursday, which gives me a few days to figure out just how the heck to do it. I've never made jam or canned anything before. I've found a few recipes for "freezer jam", and I do have a chest freezer, so I'm wondering if I should go in that direction, although I love the thought of tidy little jars of homemade jam in my pantry. My local grocery stores have canning sections, full of mysterious looking supplies.

I'm looking for recipes/resources/tips. Pointers towards previous threads or other websites discussing this topic are fine too. Ideally I'd like to do something really simple, with as little added sugar as possible. Lay it on me, hounds.

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  1. Jam is simple. I would suggest that as a beginner you get The Ball Blue Book (paperback, large and cheap) and read it. It is put out by the Ball canning jar company and will be a keeper for years to come. It will walk you throug all that you need to kniw about selecting jars, sterlizing and making jams, jelies, preserves and pickles. Yes, freezer jam is pretty fool proof but all of those jars lined up in your pantry is a pretty sight.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Candy
      c
      Caitlin McGrath

      And if you do it in jars, you can give some for gifts if you wish. I second the rec. for the Ball Blue Book as a guide; it covers the technical aspects thoroughly, and I think it has recipes for low-sugar fruit jams (I'd check if it weren't packed away).

      Link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASI...

    2. I just put up 3 batches of plum jelly last weekend. I would suggest you get a kettle style canner that goes on your stovetop. It's like a big pot with a lid and it comes with all the supplies you need. Except your jars and lids. You get a basket, funnel, a lid magnet thing, the jar lifter thing.
      You buy a case of little jars and lids. You also need to get canner bags, to drain your fruit. They also make Sure-jell for low-sugar (pink box) recipes. Or you can use the regular (yellow box).
      Make your juice according to the sure-jell recipe in the box. Usually takes 5 1/2 cups of fruit per batch.
      While your juice is draining, bring hot water to a boil in the canner. Prepare your jelly mixture according to the directions in the sure-jell box. Sterilize your jars for 10 minutes. Carefully move them to a toweled work surface. Do not let them touch anything but the tongs. Put your lids in a bowl. Right before you are ready to fill your jars pour boiling water over them. Fill your jars. Use the magnet and put on your lids. Tighten them on. Put the filled jars back in the hot water in the canner. Bring to a boil, covered. Boil 5 minutes. Remove. Enjoy waiting for the jar lids to pop!

      Obviously, this is simplified a bit. The timing is different in different recipes. But this is it basically. You would get complete instuctions with your canner and sure-jell. Btw, the sure-jell recipes are very good. And no I do not work for sure-jell.

      It is really enjoyable and delicious. Give it a try!
      -Becca

      3 Replies
      1. re: Becca Porter
        c
        Caitlin McGrath

        To clarify, the bags and draining Becca discusses above are for making clear jelly, not jam or preserves with whole fruit.

        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

          I prefer jelly, so I guess I am stuck in that train of thought. It's so good.
          -Becca

        2. re: Becca Porter

          Also, if you are going to make jelly using a jelly bag to strain the fruit juice from the fruit, never squeeze the bag. It will make your jelly cloudy.

        3. A couple random tips:

          use a minimum amount of sugar to let the natural fruit flavor shine through and don't add gelling agents-unless of course you like that very jellyish texture. Do an overnight maceration to let the fruit & sugar develop together-you can always skim off excess juice if it produces too much and save for another use. I prefer short cooking times (15-20 minutes) to keep the fruit flavors bright and the natural (whole) texture intact. There's an interesting slow-cooked method in the linked article below-their ratio of fruit to sugar is good. Cook in small batches to manage the process easier. Use a heavy-ish & wide pan that allows for evaporation and won't scorch easily. Check the jam's set with a cold spoon & plate kept in the freezer.

          Keep the kitchen very clean and organized during your jam making sessions. Now is not the time to get sloppy and casual. Prepare & read all your instructions ahead of time.

          Good luck!

          Link: http://www.latimes.com/features/print...

          1 Reply
          1. re: petradish

            so here's what I wonder. the thermometer is in there as I was gone a good long time and it's back to making the jam.
            the liquid is reducing but the strawberries don't look broken down enough from the little 2 minute thing. how will they become jam with just the liquid being reduced? I think they should be going in the pot too... < no? reading how good this particular method seems to taste, more about the fruit than the sugar is a good thing, but consistency matters to me also. I'm questioning when it's at soft ball stage to just put the berries in as is and jar 'em up?

            ok, the soft ball stage is over the liquid reduced, just don't like the looks of the rather limpish not bright red looking berries. my problem may be the amount of sugar used per the qts of berries used. don't think enough liquid so I added more and am cooking on low now to hopefully get the berries more broken and cooked in appearance.

          2. OK! I love bringing virgin jam-makers into the fold. Here's my method, learned from Helen Witty's excellent book Good Stuff. The trick to making good not-too-sweet jam with an amazing fresh-strawberry flavor is to let the berries macerate in the sugar beforehand, and to cook the syrup, not the berries, for the bulk of the time.

            SO, rinse, dry, and hull 2 quarts of berries. In a big (non-aluminum) bowl, cut larger berries in halves or quarters (small berries can stay whole) and layer berries with 3 cups sugar. Stir up the whole thing with a wooden spoon, cover and let sit for at least 6 hours at room temp or overnight in the fridge. Soon you will have a whole lot of bright-red syrup with a bunch of shrunken berries bobbing around. Dump the whole mess into a big wide non-aluminum pot with juice of 1 lemon and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let simmer for 2 minutes only, then pour back into your big bowl. Again, let sit for a few hours. Now, put a colander into your big pot and pour in the berry mixture. Let all the syrup drain into the pan. Remove the colander and bring syrup to a simmer. Let simmer, stirring often, until reduced by about half; syrup should darken somewhat and start to look thicker and a little sticky. When that happens, dump in your berries. Stirring frequently, simmer the berries until they begin to break down and look translucent--anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes, usually.

            Take off heat, and scoop into sterilized canning jars (the Ball-jar kind with the two-part lid--you can find these at most hardware stores, sold by the case for about $8-$10). Wipe the edges of the jars with a paper towel dipped in boiling water, put on the tops and rings, screw lid on. If you want, you can put filled jars into a pot of boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes to ensure a good seal.

            Voila! fabulous homemade not-too-sweet jam, made by you! This jam doesn't get a really firm set, but it's thick enough for toast, and has lovely big berry chunks. Like most homemade low-sugar jams, once opened it's best eaten within a couple of weeks.

            Link: http://www.piequeen.blogspot.com

            21 Replies
            1. re: dixieday

              I'm just throwing my vote behind this method. I also use Helen Witty's books, along with Christine Ferber, and they both use this method to great success with strawberries and other fruits. It provides a stronger, brighter flavor than the cook-it-altogether method. And it doesn't have that gumminess that you can get with packaged pectin. I've been using this method for about five years now to make jam, and I can say (blushing modestly) I've developed quite a reputation as a jam maker. Last year's strawberry jam with balsamic and black pepper was my favorite jam so far. Use good fruit; that's the other essential.

              I don't make freezer jam because I don't want to give up the room in my freezer, I want to be able to give jam as presents, and I love the look and feeling of a well-stocked pantry. But I know some people swear by it. If you have the time and inclination, you might try a little of both.

              1. re: curiousbaker

                How is this method with other fruits? Would you use basically the same technique with ollalie or blackberries?

                1. re: Millicent

                  Blackberries, and by extension ollalieberries, have a LOT of natural pectin (especially freshly picked), so they don't need so much fiddling around. I mix 4 cups of blackberries with 1 cup sugar, let sit for an hour or two, then pour everything in a pot and bring to a boil. When it starts to foam up, turn heat to low and keep stirring. At first, it will produce a lot of frothy, magenta-pink foam. After about 5 minutes of simmering, the foam will subside and the mixture will start to thicken, turning glossy and deep purple. When it begins to look sticky and slightly gummy rather than watery, itÂ’s done. The whole boiling process should take around 10 minutes. Remember that it will thicken more as it cools.

                  1. re: Millicent

                    I haven't made blackberry jam* with this method, and I don't know if that the method Witty or Ferber uses for that fruit, though I can check the books at home tonight. I know neither of them uses this method exclusively for all fruits, but I've used it for apricots and peaches as well as strawberries. Blackberries are a more delicate fruit, though, so I'm not sure how they would work.

                    *I haven't made blackberry jam mostly because I have too vivid memories of picking gallons of blackberries for free to pay the insane prices for tiny baskets of the fruit. Why are blackberries so expensive? They're a weed! We used to pick them in the suburbs where they would grow under the high wires. I wish I could find a blackberry patch. Blackberry is one of my favorite jams.

                  2. re: curiousbaker

                    well I'm doing it this way.
                    started yesterday with hulling 3 quarts of gorgeous berries.
                    measured the berries to the tee and the sugar as well.
                    measurements were the 3 quarts of berries, not 2 qts but 3, and same amount of sugar called for in the recipe for 2 qts berries, so I hope it'll be sweet enough, I think it is.
                    took a lemon out of the freezer, let it defrost, then zested it and used 1 tsp fresh lime juice instead of the lemon juice from one lemon, which calls for no zest. so as usual, I can't just follow a recipe to perfection, there is a must factor in there some where. I am wanting a non fresh strawberry jam meaning I don't want lots of large chunks of berries in there, but rather hope it's more together with berries and liquid. not using pectin and don't plan on it, so hoping it does its' thing on it's own. they are in the simmering 2 minutes only stage right now after sitting all night in their liquid. goin to the gym while they sit a few more hours. I just turned off the heat under the SS huge vessel. maybe they'll break down a bit more being in there. we'll see when I return...

                    1. re: iL Divo

                      ready to dump this batch.
                      thankful that strawberries are on sale everywhere.
                      even an ugly not at all appetizing color rather dark wine color.
                      disappointed girl here. more research when I have time.

                    2. re: curiousbaker

                      Hi,
                      Would you be willing to post a recipe for that strawberry jam with balsamic and black pepper? It sounds delicious.

                      1. re: annasrecipebox

                        The link is on this thread:

                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8507...

                        1. re: annasrecipebox

                          edit

                      2. re: dixieday

                        I use a very similar recipe in the Fannie Farmer cookbook. The key is to take the berries out while reducing the syrup considerably. The FF recipe has you use a candy thermometer to reduce the syrup to soft-ball stage so you get maximum reduction without crystalization. Not only does this produce a reliably thick jam, but it intensifies the flavor of the fruit.

                        I've used this method sucessfully with blackberries.

                        The jam always turns out good, and if there is any problem, its that the jam is too thick or the berries are too intact.

                        1. re: moi

                          When I read your post, I got out my Fanny Farmer and decided to use that recipe for my first batch. I've got it setting on the counter- it says to set for 24 hours, and has been there for 7 hours so far and it's THICK.

                          Tomorrow I'm supposed to spoon it into jars, but as I said, it's really thick. Should I just chop it up and do my best to get it in the jars, or does it make sense to heat it up at all to get it to pouring consistency?

                          I'm also trying dixieday's recipe, and then I'm going to repeat the FF recipe with white Domino sugar (this batch was with the tan-colored "evaporated cane juice" from the bulk bins at Wild Oats.) Will report back with full results!

                          1. re: Chris VR

                            Oh, oh--take pictures! I love it when people take pictures of their efforts (although I was too embarassed to take pictures of the stuffed grape leaves I made from Nyleve's recipe .)

                            Smokey

                            1. re: Chris VR

                              Well I think I spoke a bit too soon when I declared that first batch a success. It's definitely way too thick. The problem was I wasn't sure how long to cook it at one point, and ended up cooking it for about 20 minutes, when it should probably have been about 5 minutes. I think I'm just going to have to heat it a bit more to get it to a thinner consistency to get it into the jars. I'm not quite sure what I can do with it though- it's way too sticky to be spreadable. Oh well, I'll figure something out (suggestions?)

                              The second Fanny Farmer batch is setting up now, and the recipe from dixieday is in the fridge, setting overnight. Will post more (and will try to do pictures) tomorrow.

                              1. re: Chris VR

                                You can thin the too thick batch by adding just a leetle-teeny bit of water (a tablespoon or two), heat it up to a bare simmer for a few minutes, then let it cool and check it. You might need to try twice to get the consistancy right. If most of the berries are too intact (the berries won't squish when the jam is spread), then scoop out a third of the jam, give it a very quick chop in the food processor and then stir it back in. More chopped up fruit tends to make the jam consistancy thicker and more 'jammy', tho' its really nice to have plenty of whole berries too. So long as you aren't cooking the bajingles out of it, you can fuss fearlessly with this jam.

                                I've heard that anything other than white cane sugar can affect the results of recipes where the sugar molecule structure is important.

                                In the middle of winter, when you open your last jar, stand back, cuz' the strawberry odor will make you swoon.

                                Next year you will make a perfect batch the first try.

                              2. re: moi

                                I have a FF cookbook circa 1897 I think, I'll check. anyway, want to read it because I do want the result you stated with the intense flavor of the fruit to shine through, but still be thick and no crystalization in there.

                              3. re: dixieday

                                I made strawberry jam for the first time from a receipe using strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. I foe jarllowed the receipe during the cooking process but did not read about thejarring process. I did not have any jars so I just poured into class bowls that have no lids. now after reading about sterilizing and sealing can I still eat the jam? Can I reheat and then jar? I don't know what to do and I don't want to throw away unless i have to. I only made a small batch.

                                1. re: dpete

                                  Just put it in small covered containers and refrigerate. Will keep a long time.

                                  1. re: Plano Rose

                                    this is true but after a very long while, I chucked my batch a year or so ago simply because I was unsure if it was still ok or not. just being safe.............

                                  2. re: dpete

                                    You only need to seal/process in jars if you want to keep the jam unrefrigerated in your pantry.

                                  3. re: dixieday

                                    I know this is many years after this conversation, but I stumbled across this while searching for the overnight maceration method. I just tried this with a significantly larger quantity of strawberries (1 1/2 flats), and it was not a successful jam project. The copious amount of liquid only reduced by about 1/3 after a full hour's simmer. The flavor is wonderfully intense, but I ended up with canned strawberries in strawberry syrup. This method may be effective for smaller batches, but I would not recommend it for larger batches. I prefer a thinner consistency in jam but not so thin as syrup. I will experiment with the overnight maceration and cooking the syrup separately because of the marvelous flavor, but I will have to add pectin or agar to get a jam consistency when working with large batches.

                                    1. re: Shyamala

                                      Not the same source, but Cooks Illustrated did a story about why small batches work better.

                                      LA Times references it....

                                      http://articles.latimes.com/2010/aug/...

                                      Maybe it IS the same source?

                                  4. And if your jam doesn't set don't fret. I made a "failed" batch last year. I used half the sugar and no gelling agent so it didn't fully gell. It turned out to be the most wonderful topping for ice cream I've ever had. I served it over vanilla ice cream from a local dairy at a party and everyone raved.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Ellen

                                      I just call it strawberry syrup and put it on pancakes.

                                    2. I love seeing my own canning products in my pantry too, but when it comes to strawberries, I think the best way to go is to make freezer jam. I've made both kinds, and I really think the freezer jam has a much better flavor,plus it's so much easier to make. I've still given them as gifts and everyone just raves about the fresh flavor and alway wants the recipe. (It's on the sure- jell package) Whatever method you decide on, it will be better than store bought and much more rewarding.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: jackie
                                        e
                                        Eldon Kreider

                                        I made 2 batches of strawberry freezer jam today using dead ripe Michigan berries from the Lincoln Square, Chicago, farmers' market. The timing and variety were recommended by the grower for peak quality. Driscolls are tasteless by comparison. I have found that freezer jam captures the essence of good strawberries far better than any cooked strawberry jam I have ever had. Some Michigan fruit growers I have talked to feel the same way. The same goes for peach jam made with Red Haven peaches at prime time. Both of these fruits have some volatile flavor components that are lost in cooking. I have nothing against cooked jams where cooking is needed, such as plum, cherry, blueberry or my spiced cider jelly. Raspberry and blackberry are tossups in terms of flavor, but freezer jam has some advantages when temperatures are in the 90s.

                                        I prefer Certo liquid pectin for freezer jam but otherwise use powedered pectin where needed. The Michigan berries I get tend to have less acid than is assumed by the pectin makers. Consequently, the jam will not set firmly when following their directions. This year I added 1 teaspoon of citric acid per batch, which looks a bit high given the rapidity and firmness of setting. Next time I will try half that amount. Whatever you do, don't use less sugar than called for by pectin manufacturer for freezer jam. Note that Certo has two pouches per box. Each pouch is used with two cups of mashed strawberries, four cups of sugar and two tablespoons of lemon juice.

                                        Some people seem to have an almost religious aversion to using packaged pectins and will cook their fruit to death to avoid using packaged pectin derived from citrus pulp. Unfortunately, they lose the essence of fruit in the process. I am not sure which damages flavor more: overcooking, using boiled-down grape juice instead of sugar or using corn syrup.

                                        One tip for freezing strawberries. Place the hulled whole berries spread out on a plastic tray and freeze. Then transfer to zipper freezer bags for storage. Take out berries when you want them next winter. Local berries of varieties not bred for shipping or processing are almost certain to be better than anything you can buy in any supermarket's freezer case (explicitly including Trader Joe's).

                                        1. re: Eldon Kreider

                                          Boy, you've all given me a lot to go with. Thanks so much! I'm definitely going to do freezer jam, and I'm maybe going to take the canning plunge.

                                          The strawberries should be excellent quality- picked that day from IPM growers (possibly organic berries, depending on what the CSA can get for me.) So I definitely want a recipe/method that's going to showcase that incredible farm fresh flavor.

                                          I tend to buy sugar sold as "cane sugar" from the bulk bins at Wild Oats- it's sort of a tan color and is granulated just like white sugar (in contrast to turbinado sugar also in the bulk bins, which had a weird kind of waxy coating.) Does anyone know of a reason why I can't use that sugar in these recipes the same way I'd use white processed sugar (the stuff that comes in bags)? Normally I wouldn't think twice about substituting it, but this process seems to be pretty dependent on the sugar and I want to minimize the screw-up factors.

                                          1. re: Chris VR
                                            e
                                            Eldon Kreider

                                            I don't know what percentage of impurities is in the tan cane sugar at Wild Oats. The difference is mostly molasses in any case. Jelling is very sensitive to sugar concentration, so I would not take the risk if making only one batch of freezer jam. If you are using Certo, you have two pouches per box. If you want to make two batches and experiment, use white sugar in one and the tan sugar in the other. My prior is that the second batch would have a subtle flavor difference and might not set quite as firmly. If you do the test, please post on the results.

                                            Some people like to sprinkle brown sugar on strawberries, so you might like the different flavor. The batch of berries I used in the jam and had for breakfast are so sweet and flavorful that they are best eaten as is with no adornment. Most things used to mix with or top fresh strawberries strike me as gilding the lily or covering up less than great berries.

                                          2. re: Eldon Kreider

                                            Although I can't speak to freezer jams (my freezer is stuffed to the gills as it is), I wanted to chime in in agreement about using cane sugar. Boiled-down grape juice produces nasty jam. So does corn syrup. Plain old white sugar lets the flavor of the fruit shine through. And the fruit used should be top-notch, of course.

                                            I would also say that commercial pectin has its uses, though I think it can often be used as a crutch for poor technique, and it can, if not used carefully, give a rather nasty consistency. But I couldn't make mint jelly, for example, without it, and I'm certainly not ashamed to have it in my kitchen.

                                            One last piece of advice no one seems to have mentioned - don't make jam in large batches. You can usually get away with doubling a recipe, but no more than that. You need the evaporation of the excess liquid to be quick, to allow the shortest possible cooking of the fruit. If the fruit is piled too deep in your pot, you'll have to cook it too long. Also, an old-fashioned copper jam pot, with its wide, sloping sides, assists in quick cooking, but of course you can also use any wide pot. Just don't try to cook too much at once.

                                            1. re: curiousbaker

                                              I agree & actually touched on evaporation, wide pots, and small batches in my post yesterday. A quick cook will capture the essence of the fruit while concentrating and intensifying the flavors. It's a simple process once you get the feel for reducing the liquid quickly and packing immediately once you get the set. You retain much color too.

                                              This is personal preference but the problem I have with commercial pectin used in cooked methods is that it converts the juices & extends the fruit into lots of jellied product. It creates a lot of jam but I'd rather have fewer jars of very intense fruit flavor (more of a French style confiture) than many diluted ones. I also like big pieces of fruit & my jam looks quite chunky & pulpy-I love texture. One of my favorite commercial strawberry jams is Tiptree's little scarlet strawberry preserve because it's derived from whole tiny wild strawberries that have wonderful texture and retain a musky, wild berry character.

                                              1. re: petradish

                                                Sorry - I didn't see your posts. And I think you make a good point about the pectin. What bothers me most about pectin-based jams is the texture, the rubbery, gummy jelly around the fruit. I also like more chunky fruit, even whole fruit, in gently set jelly.

                                                1. re: curiousbaker

                                                  Pectin does not belong in jam, jelly yes but not in properly made jam. On the subject of sugar, the beet sugar producers will tell you there is no difference when cookig with it and cane. I have found that not to be true and only use 100% pure cane sugar. If it does not say 100% pure cane sugar on the package it is beet sugar.

                                                2. re: petradish

                                                  Personally I'd recommend a first-time jam maker use the pectin and follow the recipe on the package. Okay, you might not get the same flavor and texture that you would get without it, but what you will probably get is reasonably simple and successful jam, which will make you much more motivated to try it again. Once you get that down, then you can move on to trying it without the pectin and see what happens.

                                          3. Before you go to the production of jam or preserves, taste those berries. If they don't have a lot of flavor they are not going to improve with jam making and that is a sad truth. The best berries I ever had for jam and preserves were Ozark Beauties that I used to grow in my garden. They are hard to find now but their flavor was wonderful. My in-laws used to rave about my preserves. I had two that I made, one with just lemon juice and sugar in it and one with grand marnier though you could use other liquers, framboise would be nice. Anyway for that one you will need 4 1/2 C. washed, stemmed and hulled starwberries. Put them in a kettle and add 3 C. sugar and begin to cook over medium heat. Then bring to a boil and cook about a half an hour or until the berries reach jam consistency. remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 C. liqueur and immediately pour into hot sterilized jars and seal. That should make 4 1/2 pints.

                                            The other is more invoved and requires that you take 1 qt. fresh, very ripe prepared berries and place in a bowl. Mix them with 4 C. sugar, cover and let stand 8-12 hours. Then place in a saucepan over med. heat and slowly bring to a boil. Boil 5 mins. and then cool and allow to stand 24 hours, covered. Bring to a boil again and immediately pour into 4 1/2 pt. hot sterilized jars and seal.

                                            1. I have never gotten mine to set, I've used the right amount of gel and still I get ice cream topping, what am I doing wrong?

                                              8 Replies
                                              1. re: Keri T.

                                                Probably not cooking it long enough. Jam does not need sure-jel or certo or other pectin. It is just fruit and sugar cooked down to a very thick consistency. If you think it is thick enough try drizzling some on a cold plate or saucer and see if it sets. If it doesn't cook it some more. Some jam thickens even more as it sits in jars but my main bet is that you are just not cooking it long enough.

                                                1. re: Candy

                                                  Great, thanks!

                                                2. re: Keri T.

                                                  same here. a couple of weeks ago (strawberries are over now here) I used the recipe in MS Living (no pectin). I thought I actually cooked it longer than the recipe said, but it did not set up, even though I poured off quite a bit of excess liquid because it LOOKED like it was not going to set up.

                                                  As ice cream topping, it was fantastic, and the excess syrup was wonderful on waffles.

                                                  1. re: danna

                                                    Here's another tale of maybe a too thin product: DH picked 10 lbs. of gorgeous cherry plums for me the other day. They were just at that perfect point: ripe but not squishy. I love plum jam so I went to work on them today. Washed them, put them in a large SS stock pot with a I think about 4 cups of water and brought them to a boil. It only took about 15 minutes or so for them to break down. I used a large strainer with 1/4" holes to remove the pits. I ladled the liquid/skins/pits into the strainer and used the edge of a big spoon to push the pulp thru and leave the pits behind. It took about 1/2 hour to get all the pits out. Then I tasted it and added 4 cups of sugar. Brought the whole thing up to a rolling boil stirring and when I thought it was thick enough, I added a pouch of gel pectin. I let it boil as directed in the package. It made 9 pints and I really thought it was thick enough but am not experienced enough to know to do the plate/refrigerator test. I processed the jars for the 10 minutes suggested in the gel instructions. All the jars sealed as needed; love that little "ping"! Now I'm looking at it and it doesn't look thick enough - here's my question: can I open them all up and recook to thicken more or should we just enjoy it runny....

                                                    1. re: RWCFoodie

                                                      Some jams and jellied can take up to a week to set, even with pectin. But most will be set in a day or two. You can reprocess them if they don't set firm enough for you. Here is one website for instructions.

                                                      http://solutions.psu.edu/Food_Prepara...

                                                      1. re: chowmel

                                                        Thanks chowmel: I'll watch it for a couple of days but I really don't think it will firm up - thanks so much for the link!

                                                        1. re: RWCFoodie

                                                          I can't believe that it has taken this long for me to re-process my jam but I finally got to it this morning. Thanks again chowmel for the link to the Penn State "Remedies for jam and jelly that doesn't set" page. I followed the directions - did it in 2 batches - added about 2 cups of sugar to each batch and just cooked the excess water out of it. Sterilized jars and lids, filled and processed the full jars and now instead of 9 pints I have 5!!! That was a lot of extra water... I did plate test and it was the right consistency! So my jam is saved! Gawd, I love Chowhound!

                                                      2. re: RWCFoodie

                                                        Thank you so much for sharing this link. I made kumquat marmalade with seven pounds of kumquats, a chunk of ginger,a handful of key limes and natural sugar + honey. Have done something similar before but no beginners luck this time. I think my quantities were too large so after simmering it for close to 4 hours still didn't look like it would thicken. Put it all into little 8 ounce jars and the little lids went "ping" and this morning they looked like something to pour over pancakes. I was quite depressed until I pulled up the "Solution Source" website... now I'm ready to go at it again! Will now climb back up on my wall !

                                                  2. I have never used a recipe and have always done jam making by feel and taste. firstly taste the fruit, if very sour then more sugar needed. I barely cover my fruit with water and bring to the boil to ensure fruit is mushy, some fruit I use a potato masher to pound down. Then add heavy sugar (jam sugar is best), however it is very important to remove from heat before adding the sugar and make sure it is totally dissolved before going back to the heat. I taste it at this point to see if it is sweet enough.

                                                    Then bring back to the boil, add a knob of butter - this reduced froth.

                                                    once a rolling boil has been achieved (make sure your pot is large enough) I use the cold plate test - put some on a cold plate and drag your finger through. When the jam stays separated and does not return to a blob it is done. you need to keep doing this every 30 seconds or so.

                                                    remove from heat. At this point I boil the kettle, and rinse out all my jars with boiled water, tip out the excess water, fill the warm jars. cover and store. I have never had mouldy jam.

                                                    I make, plum, strawberry, blackberry, mixed berries, raspberry, apricot etc.
                                                    I miss my English garden as I used to make about 30 jars a year. Florida doesn't have the home grown fruit I used to have.

                                                    1. According to June Taylor, a small artisan jam maker, who is very highly regarded in the Bay Area, you do not need to put your filled jars in a boiling water bath. She simply puts the clean, empty jars in a 200 deg oven while the conserve is boiling down with sugar. Immediately that it is ready to jar, she fills right up to the brim of the jar, screws on the lids and places on a baking rack to cool. Be sure and keep a clean work area and work quickly. I have tried this with both marmalade and apricot conserve and it works flawlessly. The jars seal with the satisfying ping and there has never been a problem. June Taylor, btw, really counsels against using pectin. Following her instructions, I have made really really delicious lemon-grapefruit marmalade, blood orange marmalade and apricot conserve. If you have a chance to take one of her classes (offered throughout the year), do so. You will learn a tremendous amount.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: katnat

                                                        I love to see more people wanting to make jams/jellies, its not as hard as a lot of people
                                                        think, and it does`nt take as much time to make as a lot of people think. I have a hobby
                                                        of makeing jams/jellies every year. this year I am going to make a combination of useing
                                                        blackberries/blueberries, I have made a jam last year that I got the fruit from the frozen
                                                        food section of my supermarket that had five different kinds of berries and it was great.
                                                        I will have to agree with the one saying tostart out with the ball blue book it has alot of
                                                        good information to start out.

                                                        1. re: katnat

                                                          I really need help with making jam or jelly with the one-part lids as seen in the June Taylor video.My plan is to make 1.5 or 2 oz. (tiny and cute, huh!) jars of jam or jelly for wedding favors for my son's wedding. I know where to get the jars, but want to do everything correctly to be safe, so an exact recipe with the processing directions is needed. I will probably use strawberries or peaches. Thanks.

                                                          1. re: Jamming Janie

                                                            Do you have a link to that video?

                                                        2. My grandmother made sunshine preserves-very easy
                                                          2c sugar and 2c strawberries
                                                          Combine in a 3 qt pot and let set while juices draw.
                                                          Bring to a gentle boil and cook 15 min (I leave the lid on about 60 sec when it starts boiling to wash crystals down).
                                                          Pour out on a cookie sheet and cool.
                                                          Instead of putting it outside, like she used to do, I used my oven on dehydrate and thickened it a little more.

                                                          1. Ina Garten's strawberry Jam recipe is fantastic; it uses blueberries for texture and flavor. I add a quantity of lemon juice to taste, in order to give it a fresher flavor. Otherwise it can be a little blandly sweet--this lasted 3 wks in my refrigerator before it was all gone. It's great on french toast: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Danica21

                                                              that's good to know that it only lasted 3 weeks because it got all eaten up.
                                                              here that won't happen so I'll give our DS#2 a jar to take to his sweetheart where it's sure to be consumed quickly, < his favorite jam period.

                                                            2. This is an old thread but helpful. I made apricot jam last week and an impish friend asked for strawberry just to give me a bad time. He manages our parish kitchen as a volunteer, and I was glad to oblige. Today, I made strawberry microwave jam from the iFood site. The recipe called for 4 cups of crushed fruit. If I do it again, I'll cook half that amount. Even with a very large microwave bowl, it was hard to keep it from boiling over. Recipes for microwave strawberry jam are variable--some use pectin and others don't. I used Sure Gel for this batch and some lemon juice. A friend made microwave apricot jam from stewed dried apricots the other day. It wasn't quite as good as making it from fresh fruit, but it was really better than most of the commercial apricot jams that I have tasted. So if you like homemade jam and don't want to make more than a jar or two, a microwave may be what you need. (On the other hand, for really small batches, the stove top approach doesn't take much longer. So it is really a question of convenience.)

                                                              1. Today's NY Times has a recipe for strawberry jam with kiwi to help it set. http://www.nytimes.com/recipes/101478...

                                                                Which led me to wonder, why not just use pectin, which led me to this thread. I've done it both ways and had varying success; I can't get ANY of Christine Ferber's recipes to set, but I've also had failures occasionally when I've used pectin too. And the results are always delicious. So I'm still undecided which is best, and reading this thread really didn't help. It sounds like people have their own preferences for various reasons, but all I care about is what tastes better in the end, and it's not clear to me which tastes better--pectin or none.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: christy319

                                                                  i like the small batch no pectin jams but adding one kiwi sounds interesting! Wait....relentless stirring for 30 minutes?