This is the very 1st recipe I ever posted. I worked on strawberry jam in June 2015 & posted it – later – in August for the β-version of my food blog.
Now – after some re-working & re-engineering of the food blog – I’ll re-start with an adapted version of my earlier posts (only 3!) – although this time of the year isn’t really the jam season!
Why should somebody always working too many office hours a week start cooking jam? Each food store presents long shelves filled classic & exotic jams of different producers from national as well as foreign countries – ranging from cheap up to very expensive. This leads to the point why I – years ago – decided to invest in this time-consuming & exhausting activity of classic housewives (i. e. general assumption & prejudice!).
Once upon a time in the 80s my former partner’s parents owned a small garden filled amongst others with some red & black currant bushes as well as blackberry bushes filling several (small) buckets with berries – more than my prospective in-laws could manage to process. On the other hand my ex-partner went wild for pineapple jam, however, often complained about industrial pineapple jam failing his anticipated quality standard… Both led us start to study the art of jam cooking & to state after having amassed some experience with a great many of fruits:
- Preparing the fruit can be very time-consuming, e. g. when having to clean eat single black currant from its little stem or when pitting morello cherries piece by piece (attention: intensive fruit colours cause intensive stains on light t-shirts!).
- There is flavorful fruit to be processed easy & fast into more flavorful jam – and there is fruit as well resulting only in some very sweet mess.
- Vanilla & cinnamon are wonderful spices to create jam variations (we never tried anything with ginger!); rum, brandy & whisky didn’t work at all.
- Stay simple – mix only up to 2 fruits for the sake of fruit preparing efforts.
- Furthermore: fruit mixtures can result in an optical mess, however, the taste may compensate.
- Sugar may be used the classic way (= 1000 gr fruit & 1000 gr sugar) or – more for the light life – may be reduced in relation 2:1 or even 3:1 (attention: artificial conservation ingredients necessary!).
- Be sure to weigh fruit & sugar exactly: too much fruit will result in rather runny than smooth jam.
- Always make sure you’ll have enough clean jars before starting buying – or harvesting – any fruit.
- Home-made jam tastes always somewhat better!
- Home-made jam will always make as an extraordinary little present!
Well: what jams did we successfully produce? (… and where we failed)
(in alphabetical order)
Don’t try it! It sounds quite good, but it doesn’t live up to the promise.
Recently I discovered in the food store speciality jam editions with apples as an additional ingredient combined with oranges, pineapple, plum etc. – I never worked with such varieties because of the effort!
Apricots may be only light yellow & rather hard seeming to be unripe, but the jam always turns out perfectly smooth & sweet with a full-bodied flavor. Vanilla goes well apricots.
Pls. refer to Apricot Jam for the recipe!
Black Currant Jam
What a taste! What a time-consuming fruit preparation (as I mentioned already above!). The pits are much smaller than the red current pits – so you can leave them in the jam.
Although there is always plenty of red currants during summer back currants are less popular & much more expensive. You are lucky if there is a black currant bush in your (or your family’s) back garden.
In short: either lots of work or lots of work and expensive! (Think about twice before planning black currant jam!)
Also: what a taste! I recommend to use the 1:1 sugar option because blackberries can be a little acid.
Maybe about 10% water will be necessary to smoothen the berries-sugar-mass (don’t forget to weigh the additional water!).
Blackberries are as rare as black currants & even more expensive. (Also: think about twice…)
Well: I cannot remember that we ever tried the blueberry option (& don’t know why!).
I love marmalade: the classic fine-cut one as well as the chunky cut version, the bitter one as well as the sweeter one… So naturally this was to become the “pièce de resistance” – but we never succeeded! The 1st obstacle then – back in the late 80ies – was to acquire organic oranges, the 2nd was to manage cutting the oranges accordingly. All our experiments failed – we never managed to produce a nice marmalade: it was too sweet, too runny, too short on aroma…
Nevertheless we also tried lemon instead of oranges – with the same disappointing results!
Since then I buy delicious marmalade in my trusted food store.
Very sweet – too sweet: it wasn’t to my taste!
Morello Cherry Jam
The biggest obstacle turned out to get morello cherries which are only available for 2-3 weeks in summer. The biggest challenge is to remove the pits – yes: I know there are professional kitchen appliances for solving the problem, but… we hadn’t got one! And I didn’t intend to buy one – an appliance I’d use once a year or maybe less which would clutter the kitchen, using space…
Nevertheless we produced successfully some morello cherry jam: keep in mind to use the right amount of sugar (1:1) because morello cherries can be really sour!
Another point: of course we experimented also with cherries – sweet dark cherries & were very disappointed when the cherry jam was just very sweet missing all the cherry flavour.
I never understood where all the flavor of ripe peaches disappeared…
We only tried it once – as far as I remember, but it was delicious! Be sure to do it in the 1:1 version & be even more sure to use very ripe mangos! The mangos are the critical factors for success.
A little Amaretto isn’t so bad to enhance the flavour.
We also talked about adding some passion fruit instead of mangos, but it failed because of lacking passion fruit then (late 80ies!).
You remember: this was one of the reasons to start jam production.
At 1st you’ll need very ripe pineapples. If you cut the pineapple into small pieces there should be lots of sweet & sticky juice around your fingers. It is useful to put about the half of the fruit in a blender to crush the fruit pieces – as a result you can use 100% fruit for the jam.
…and well: I learnt that the most ripe & juicy pineapples came to Europe in winter (January – March).
Yes – there is something like plum jam. I’m rather sure you won’t find it on the shelf in the food store because here rules only the 24h-cooked version of plum butter. However, you can also prepare plums – just remove the pits & half the plums – add some water (covering the bottom of your pot for some millimeters – remember weighing this water!), add the sugar & add cinnamon. As soon as the cooking starts the plum will fall apart & a wonderful creamy jam with bits of plum evolves.
So: Plum jam is rather easy to produce & somewhat extraordinary.
Main problem are the pits & pips: raspberries have lots of them & they cause trouble. In addition raspberries are rather expensive. My recommendation: either start sieving or – better – use raspberries as an add-on to other jams (like strawberry jam!).
Red Currant Jam
This is one of my favorites: the little berries can be cleaned w/o any extraordinary effort. You can mash the fruit with sugar & just wait an hour or so for the mess to get juicy.
The only disadvantage are the pits & pips – if you don’t like them in your jam you’ll have to mash the fruit, sieve the fruit & then add the sugar: here it gets heavily strenuous. So either learn to like pits & pips or do w/o red currant jam.
This is my absolute favorite jam: it’s easy to make (no lengthy fruit preparation!) & simply delicious. Always try to get most ripe fruit – although cut away all damages!
You can mix in about 10% red currants or raspberries to vary the aroma.
While regarding red & black currants or black- & raspberries where you don’t need any additional spices like vanilla or cinnamon, vanilla is perfect for strawberry jam.
I’m not sure if I covered all our jam experiments, but I think you got the point: If you once start producing home-made jam you cannot stop because of the wonderful flavors despite all failures! As a results for many years we had a rather large variety of jams for us, for friends & guests.
By the way: did you notice? We never did any jellies… simply because: jellies mean to eliminate all pits & pips meaning when preparing or after cooking sieving the mess – I pointed to it before! Far too much complexity… (& b. t. w. I don’t really like jellies!)
After all these exciting experiments resulting in very delicious jams the activities slowly drifted off. The free berry source finally run dry, there were more professional tasks to be fulfilled … and I became single again & the need of bigger loads of jam vanished. Now I’m part of a happy twosome again, but jam production became more pragmatic: I concentrate on producing a yearly contingent of simple jams like strawberry or apricot jam to be used on breakfast rolls as well as for baking cakes or cooking desserts. Nothing feels better than being able to announce to guests that home-made jam was used for the pudding…
Coming back to strawberry jam: This is the most simple & delicious jam you can imagine. Basis are fully ripe & flavorsome strawberries – all somehow suspicious looking buddies should not end in the jam pot.
Discard the stems & wash the strawberries thoroughly. Put the strawberries as a whole or in halves in a big pot (attention: don’t forget to weigh accurately!) & mix with the preserving sugar. Afterwards let it work for about an hour: the strawberries will swim their own (sugar) juice afterwards.
Now it’s time to prepare the jars: ensure that enough jam jars with twist-off caps are ready to be washed in (almost) boiling hot water & dried with a fresh tea towel – and just do this! I always use the jars of jam I bought in the food store. If you gather them during the year & take care that they are cleaned carefully before you store them for further use I’m sure you’ll get enough jars. You can use these jars for 3-4 fillings before the twist-off cap weakens.
Now the strawberry mess will be cooked; vanilla (i. e. sliced vanilla pods) should be added before starting the cooking. Don’t be afraid of the foam – it’ll vanish later. Sometimes a little foam stays on: you can use an artificial foam reducer (refer to shelf in the food store!) if it troubles you too much.
After the cooking – about 4 minutes of briskly boiling(!) – the jam must immediately be filled in the jars (make sure in advance that you’ll have a gravy ladle ready & some towel to grip the hot-hot jars). Close the jars immediately & turn them upside down. Now let it cool!
The famous gelatinize test is always recommended… I skip it always: if you stick exactly to the amounts (e. g. per 1000 gr fruit (& water) it is 1000 gr preserving sugar by 1:1 method) it will work out as wished. Well… you should be more careful when doing jellies or when mixing fruit with alcohol or when trying some new combination of fruits you never did before…
This time I produced both types of jam:
- the classic strawberry jam (1:1 ratio) I’ll use mainly for cakes, cookies & desserts
- the light version (2:1 ratio) I prefer for breakfast rolls.
Preparing both at the same time, but only with 1 pot, took me about 2,5 hours & resulted in getting 11 jam jars filled with strawberry jam – 8 big (340 gr) & 3 small (250 gr) ones. I stored them away & will know you during the next months when using my strawberry jam in other recipes.
B. t. w. the 2 vanilla pods were used in both production processes – enough vanilla aroma!
The Businesswoman with too many office hours thinks
It seems to be quite a lot of time I’ll need for producing strawberry jam, but I think I’ll get enough jam for at least 1 year. Cleaning up the kitchen seems also quite easy – although never fun – because only a limited number of equipment is used.
If I really remember collecting empty jam jars – well, I can also buy these in shops.