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Does anyone add salt to home-canned jam?

Hello, Chows. I'm currently working on my first batch (ever) of jam (it's nectarines, sugar and citric acid) and so far it tastes, primarily, very sweet. Does anyone add salt to their jams/preserves to balance the flavor? Will that affect the set or the seal?

Thanks, all.

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    1. re: sunshine842

      Well, that sounds pretty final :)
      Thank you so much! Hopefully when it is finished cooking down it will taste more of nectarines and less of sugar.

    2. No (31 years canning experience). Add lemon juice instead of salt.

      1 Reply
      1. re: wyogal


        I've NEVER added salt, but I almost always add lemon. (The exception is blackberries they are acidic enough on their own!).

      2. I've used herbs, spices, extracts and small amounts of liqueur but never salt.

        If you do decide to use salt make sure it doesn't have any additives (iodine, anti-caking). The additives can discolor pickles so I would think they may have a similar effect with jams. I don't see how salt would be a problem with the seal or the set.

        1. The salt is for the cucumbers and chows, definitely not the fruit.

          1. I always add a pinch of salt to round out the flavor. In your case, the salt will not cut the 'sweetness' of your jam. As everyone suggested, add some lemon juice.

            1 Reply
            1. Thank you all! I'm afraid I rather messed up my first batch, though - I don't have a candy thermometer, and I must have cooked it far beyond the gelling point. I am now the proud owner of 6 half-pints of...what....a sticky nectarine candy? It is so hard and chewy that it will not spread. Does anyone have any words of wisdom for this newbie canner?

              12 Replies
              1. re: oldfangled

                You can heat it and thin with water and use as a glaze for pork or duck or even as a topping for ice cream or pavlova.

                I never bother with a candy thermometer. Next time you make jam you will have this experience behind you. It is one of those things that become second nature with practice. What recipe did you use? Did it give you an indication of how long you needed to boil the mixture?

                1. re: chefathome

                  Unfortunately the only recipes I could find were for a tiny amount of fruit (say, 4 cups) or for an outrageous amount of fruit (20 lbs). Their proportions were the same, so I wasn't concerned about safety. I simmered for an hour, and the recipe I found only called for 20 minutes - it just all seemed so SOUPY still! And since I wasn't using pectin, I wanted to make sure it set up. Clearly, I should have just listened to the recipe!

                  1. re: oldfangled

                    Yes - sometimes it does look almost too soupy. I made apricot jam today that looked soupy but it set up nicely. How you cut/mash the fruit also makes a difference. Once I decided to take a shortcut and puree my berries in my food processor - big mistake. Never again! Crushed fruit is not the same as pureed fruit!

                    1. re: chefathome

                      Sometimes I cut up plums and they are still not breaking downy the way I would like them to, even 2/3 through the cooking time.

                      I don't puree, I grab my potato masher, mash away - and they come out dandy!

                    2. re: oldfangled

                      Sometimes it takes a day or two to set if you aren't using pectin. Yes, follow recipes for jams, until you get it down. I always follow the recipe when I use pectin. Not so much for apple butter, but I've done it so much I know what consistency to look for.

                      1. re: wyogal

                        even if you are using pectin!

                        I had some jars of strawberry-raspberry that looked like they were destined for sauces, but I didn't have time to mess with them -- and by the third day it was set -- not firm, but certainly thick enough to be jam, and not sauce.

                      2. re: oldfangled

                        Small batches seem to be more cooperative than large, in my experience. (I have a huge flat of plums right now, I'll do them in two large pots, side by side.) Don't forget the freezer test: a tablespoon of jam on a plate in the freezer for 5 minutes will show you if it's starting to gel.

                        Also they sell a thing called a Maslin pan that helps the jam evaporate more quickly, but I find my largest (15 qt) stock pot is great---heavy bottom, lots of room to mash fruit, etc.

                        1. re: applgrl

                          What is a "small" batch? I'm brand new at this. How many pounds of fruit would you consider small? I'll try that next time :)

                          1. re: oldfangled

                            8 cups (3-4 pounds) of fruit is the biggest I will go at a time. And that's in a giant stock pot!

                            4-6 cups (2-3 pounds, depending) is very easy to work with.

                            1. re: happybaker

                              Second that. 4-6 cups of the prepared pulp, that is. (peels removed, seeds strained, etc.)

                    3. re: oldfangled

                      Yes to chefathome's advise - all is not lost! I had a very slow warmup to jamming day in the spring using a different pot & a different stove (gas vs electric). I ended up with a number of batches of sweet tar! Everything since then has been coming out right.

                      So words of advise are to make a lot of notes and to have this site as a good reference:
                      I reread much of their information each season - each time there is a new aspect which I realize I didn't understand thoroughly.

                    4. Yes. I just did a batch of ginger peach and added a bit of salt. I used Pomona pectin which allows for using less sugar. I hate overly sweet anything, and this turned out great.
                      I also add it to ice cream bases even though it's never called for.

                      1. Too sweet? You can add lemons, limes, grated ginger, white wine and cider vinegar with a light hand in all cases but in general most recipes call for far too much sugar. I typically judge how much sugar I'm going to use as the fruit cooks down. The only time I use salt is when I'm preparing a savory jam or preserving pickled veggies, olive oil garlic, tangy cukes or canned tomatoes.

                        1. I do two parts fruit to one part sugar. No added water. For strawberries I will use even less sugar.

                          And the late Laurie Colwin had fabulous advice. To paraphrase - You'll know it's jam when it looks like... jam!

                          After a few batches you will get an eye for it. You'll want to stop when it's a bit loose, it will set up as it cools.

                          And for me, I also use the cooked custard test - if it coats the back of a spoon and leaves a line then I run my finger through it - we're good!

                          1. No salt, but sometimes a tiny dab of butter if the fruit is exceptionally foamy.

                            1. How much salt are you thinking about?
                              Salt shouldn't affect the seal.

                              1. I am more curious about whether the salt will affect the chemistry of the set rather than the flavor aspect.

                                I personally add a small amount of salt to all of my sweet dishes and I find that it definitely helps the pallet engage the flavors more readily.

                                I am making a huge batch of Seville marmalade and as long as the salt wont effect the set-up of the marmalade or hinder the preservation aspects, I will add a small amount of salt.

                                So I am basically not asking for flavor advice, I am more curious about the chemistry of fruit preserves and salt.

                                1. I can a lot. For stone fruit I don't add salt but do honey and a pectin called pamona's pectin because I can use honey or less sugar or fruit juice to sweeten. For things like pumpkin butter (not safe for canning but freezes) and apple butter or any thing with added flavor I do add a pinch of salt. It doesn't effect canning safety so play around with it and see what you like. Keep in mind the flavor of your food in jars will change as it sits though. I also agree adding lemon will cut the sweetness and a higher acidity means safer canning. It's recommended to use bottled lemon juice because it has a consistent ph.