On the homestead, fruits and vegetables are abundant each year, and every homesteader has to figure out ways to preserve their produce and to make sure nothing goes to waste. If you have plenty of fruits and you don’t know how to preserve the harvest, how about making jam? This article will share some tips to make sure you succeed in making jams.
Jam making rules
There are a number of important details in the making of jam, which apply to whichever fruit you choose.
- Firm, ripe fresh fruit should be used, but you should avoid over-ripe fruit.
- Fruit that needs softening should be allowed to simmer gently before the sugar is added.
- It is important to have pectin, acid, and sugar in the correct proportions to get a well-set jam.
The sugar should not be added until the fruit is well cooked and broken down. After the sugar has been added, the jam should be boiled rapidly until the setting point is reached.
Jam sugar which can be bought in most supermarkets will contain pectin. To prevent fruit from rising in the jars (especially strawberries & cherries), the jam should be allowed to cool slightly in the saucepan and then stirred before it is put into jars.
Over boiling, after the sugar has been added, darkens the color of the fruit and spoils the fresh fruit flavors. A runny jam may be due to under boiling, a deficiency of pectin or acid, or the use of too high a proportion of sugar.
Scum should not be removed until the jam is made. Continual removal of scum during making is wasteful & unnecessary.
If screw-top jam jars are used, the metal covers should be scrupulously clean and should be placed onto the jars as soon as they have been filled with jam. Once the jar is filled, you can place a wax disc on the surface of the jam before you place the lid on. This can help to prevent mold growth. Should any mold grow, it seldom penetrates the wax disc, so it would not affect the flavor of the fruit.
If the fruit has been well-cooked before the addition of sugar, it should not be necessary to boil the jam for longer than three to twenty minutes.
- There are several methods you may use to test the setting point, but the easiest methods are the temperature and flake tests.
- A thermometer marked in degrees up to 226°F (108°C) is required for the temperature test. It should be placed in the jam, and if the temperature rises to 220°F (104°C), the jam will set, but this will depend if the fruit contains plenty of pectin and acid.
The flake test requires a wooden spoon dipped into the jam, removed, and turned horizontally in the hand until the jam is slightly cooled. Then allow the jam to drop from the edge of the spoon. If it has been sufficiently boiled, the jam will partially set on the spoon, and the drops will run together, forming flakes.
Addition of Pectin
If you are inexperienced in jam making, you may not be aware of the fruit which require additional pectin, such as strawberries, blackberries, cherries & zucchini.
To make these fruits into a satisfactory jam, you will need to add pectin in one of the following ways.
- Lemon juice
- Fruit juice
- Apple or gooseberry
Or you can buy commercial pectin. Liquid and powdered pectin are on the market in convenient small packs. The use of such pectin is quite unnecessary if you are making blackcurrant or gooseberry jam as both these fruits are high in pectin and acid.
Many smallholders grow a quantity of their own fruit, and with the continual cost of living rising every week, a great deal of money will be saved by making jam. The cost of making jam of home is so low, and some say it’s actually neglectable.
How to make your own pectin
If you can’t find pectin to buy, you shouldn’t worry since there is another alternative at hand. You can make your own pectin at home without too much trouble and just a little bit of patience.
You can try various recipes, but all recipes have two ingredients in common, apples and water.
You can use 1 pound of unpeeled, uncored apples and 1 ½ cup of water, or 3 pounds of unpeeled, uncored apples, 8 cups of water, and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, or 6-8 large tart unpeeled, uncored apples and 4 cups of water.
You will also need a pan, a colander or sieve, cheesecloth, a bowl, and canning jars.
- Start by putting the water, lemon juice, and apples into the pan and bring to a boil.
- Allow cooking until the fruit has completely softened.
- Now take the colander or sieve, line it with the cheesecloth, and set it over the bowl.
- Put the cooked apples and mixture into the colander or sieve.
- Let it sit until all the juice has dripped out.
- Now you can either refrigerate your pectin, or you can it and process it in a boiling water bath.
Brass or copper preserving pans were once considered to be the best for jam making. Still, recent modern methods have shown that made in these pans contain less ascorbic acid (vitamin c) than if enamel, aluminum, or stainless-steel ones are used.
Enamel pans should be free of chips; otherwise, the jam is liable to burn.
It is a mistake to try to make too much jam at once. The pan should be large enough to allow the jam room to boil vigorously. The pan should only be about half full when the sugar is added.
A small piece of butter or margarine rubbed over the bottom of the pan before the fruit is put in helps to avoid scum and helps the fruit from sticking
When jam making
Never turn your back on it – make sure it does not burn as you will have to discard
Be careful when handling the hot, sticky liquid and keep children and animals away from the kitchen
Be aware of the pectin content of the fruit (or veg – zucchini, carrot, beetroot, pumpkin, and tomato all make good jams)
Be prepared – have everything ready before you start and allow enough time
Never eat any jam that is moldy or smells unpleasant – discard and learn from the jam-making mistakes.
Making jam at home is easy if you follow these tips, and it’s a pleasant and rewarding activity. You will be able to preserve the fruits from your garden and make something delicious everyone in the family can enjoy.
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