Couple canning queries...
Just started canning, and while I have fanciful ambitions to create my own boozy spiced fig spreads for use on biscuits and roasts, we thought we'd start simple with the most basic Ball recipe for powdered pectin peach jam---what with peaches peaking right now here in the PNW. Couple questions:
1) Recipe said it would yield six 8-ounce jars, but in fact yielded just a skosh over five. We're having a hard time figuring how 4 cups of finely chopped fruit and 5 cups of sugar doesn't have a pretty much universal yield. So we're wondering: is the Ball book a little unpredictable in its yields, or should we be looking at something we're doing?
2) Just looking at the recipe and then tasting the remnants in the pan...this is _awfully_ sweet stuff. Do any or most of you regularly reduce the amount of sugar the Ball book calls for? If so, do you have a preferred fruit-to-sugar ratio? The gf's first thought was that anything beyond 1-to-1 seemed excessive, and I agreed (but again, this was our first canning experience, so what do we know?).
Thanks in advance, and thanks to those of you who chimed in to recommend Ball on an earlier post---looks like it'll be great fun.
You can't reduce sugar unless you are using a pectin specifically made for low or no sugar canning. Pomona's universal pectin is the brand I've used and it does enable you to play with sugar amounts. Yeah, standard jam is really sweet, but that's also one of the reasons it keeps forever.
Can't speak to the yield issue; haven't noticed a problem there myself, though I never pay much attention to whether I've achieved the yield they suggest. I think evaporation, juiciness, and amount of headroom can all make a difference.
I am not an expert in canning, but last year we made our own chokecherry and wild plum jam. We thought the same thing about how it seemed the amount of sugar was excessive. What we found out was that when we added enough sugar to what we thought was sweet and less than the recommended , the jam did not gel and set no matter how much pectin we added nor how long we cooked. Those batches that did not set became syrup.
I believe the sugar helps aid in setting and preservation. These are my observations. It was a hard process hand harvesting the fruit and extracting the pulp but super fun.
Gosh, yes, you could do a 2-1 ratio for that, or much less if you're willing to compromise other stuff. You need the acidity more for safe canning than you need the added sugar, but the added sugar has other good attributes. Also, check out all the ways you can jam without commercial pectin. You need a load of sugar for commercial pectin. I wouldn't even add pectin to my peaches.
Check out the wondering Saving the Season blog - I just saw something he had on there about peaches. I'm going to take his idea and do an earl grey peach jam.
The yield varies hugely depending on evaporation (wide pot? narrow pot? heat?) and just how juicy your fruit is. That yield really isn't off that much. I've messed up recipes much more trying to get things to gel, so I cook and cook and cook...and it sets up like concrete!
I made the peach jam from the recipe that comes with the box of Ball powdered pectin last night. I halved the recipe and the yield was about one jar less than expected. The juiciness of the fruit and the size of the dice probably affects the final yield.
I have made low sugar peach jam (sweetening with honey instead of sugar) using Pomona pectin. Very good--the honey gives it a subtle perfume and it really tastes more like a fresh peach.