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wny does my jam never sheet?

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i've been making lots of jam lately -- mostly using christine ferber's book, which i love (but which is sort of scant on detailed directions). her jams don't use pectin, so you need to check the set to see when it's ready. i keep trying to do that sheet test with a spoon, but my jam thickens but never sheets. recently i made a batch of plum-vanilla and kept testing with a spoon and no sheeting until the point when i started to smell caramelizing at the bottom -- definitely too much cooking -- so i quickly took it off the stove. it set just fine when cool despite no sheeting. the next batch also never sheeted off a spoon, but i had a hunch it might be ready and had been cooking long enough, so i took it off, and it also set perfectly. the thing is i'd rather not rely on my hunches, since i'm not the most experienced jam maker yet. a foolproof test would be much more comforting. what gives -- why no sheeting? is my spoon not cold enough? something else? can someone walk me through what needs to be done exactly?

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  1. I'll be interested in what you find out---I long ago surrendered the idea of making jam that sets. I just make runny jam.. .tastes the same and no one in my family seems to care.

    how do you like the Christine Ferber book? I'm on the waiting list at my library...

    2 Replies
    1. re: jenn

      i love her ideas for combinations of fruits and spices. i tend to use slightly less sugar and more lemon in all her recipes (but only slightly less sugar or it doesn't set). her instructions are very, very minimal though. it's kind of more of an advanced jam book (or a recipe idea book more than a book about technique). i tend to consult the blue ball book for details about how to deal with jam (like set tests). but everything i've made is super delicious.

      1. re: montecoretiger

        My jams never set because I can't bring myself to put as much sugar as the recipes call for. That said another test for set is to put a little jam on a plate in the freezer. If it is set when you check it then you are ready to jar. The notes on this say to take the pan off the heat while checking which is a good idea if you are close to the set point. Also they said start checking when it reaches 105°C/220°F using a sugar thermometer. Don't obsess about the set point since runny jams taste just fine.

    2. Here are some instructions for both sheeting and temperature monitoring.
      http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribu...
      However, it seems to me that you are rapidly becoming an experienced jam maker.