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How to make a nature preserve

Savour the taste of summer all year ’round with easy jellies and jams.

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There’s no sweeter way to lock in summer-fresh flavour than making homemade jam. And it’s easier than you think. No-cook jams are practically foolproof, so they’re the perfect choice for first-timers. More experienced cooks may prefer the traditional jam method of cooking fruit with sugar until thickened (Sounds simple, but it can be a delicate operation!). Whatever method you choose, read on for delicious recipes and tips on making every jar taste its best.

No-cook jams
These have a soft set and need to be stored in the freezer. Since glass shatters easily when frozen, use plastic containers with tight-fitting lids. Sterilize containers before using by washing tops and bottoms in hot, soapy water, then rinsing with warm water, or run them through the dishwasher. Drain well and dry before filling. No-cook jams will keep for up to a year in the freezer.

No-cook jamming tips

• Don’t alter measurements in the recipe – especially the sugar or lemon juice – or else your jam won’t set.
• Don’t substitute brands of pectin in recipes – they all have different formulas. Use the pectin product specified in the recipe.
• Use only ripe fruit for the best flavour. If you use over-ripe fruit, the lack of natural pectin will make your jam runny.
• Manually crush berries, a handful at a time, with a potato masher. For all other fruit, chop with a knife or pulse in a food processor. Don’t purée: jam should be a little chunky!
• Don’t fill containers right to the top. Leave about 1/4-in. (0.5-cm) of space at the top, as jam expands when frozen.
• Wipe the outside of jam containers with a clean, damp cloth before freezing – and don’t forget to label your jars and include the date the jam was made.

For more information on no-cook jams, call the Certo hotline. It’s open from June to September, Monday to Friday, 9 am to 9 pm and Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm. 1/800/268-9038.

Traditional jam-making
Cooked jam takes more time, since the fruit needs to be simmered long enough for the pectin to thicken. When it’s ready, jam should be soft enough to spread, but not runny. Great jam is a harmonious balance between fruit, sugar, pectin and acid. And when you get it right, there’s nothing more delicous.

General tips:

• Use a mixture of ripe and slightly underripe (but not green) fruit. The underripe fruit has more pectin, which will help your jam set.
• While it may seem like recipes call for a lot of sugar, don’t alter it or the jam may not set properly.
• Apples, oranges and blackberries make jamming a cinch because they contain a high level of pectin. Apricots, peaches, strawberries and rhubarb also work well.
• Don’t alter measurements in recipes – especially sugar or lemon juice – or your jam won’t set.
• As jam thickens during cooking, make sure to stir often. This will prevent sticking or scorching.
• Cooking times vary depending on the amount of pectin in the fruit. Jam is ready when it holds its shape on a spoon, but keep in mind it will thicken as it cools. Or do the “plate” test. Place a plate in the freezer while prepping and cooking the jam and toward the end of cooking, put a spoonful on the frozen plate. Return to the freezer for one to two minutes, then check to see if mixture has thickened and gelled. You can tell it’s ready if the surface of the jam wrinkles when gently pushed with your finger.

Before you start, you need to get your jars ready. Here’s how:

• Wash jars in hot, soapy water or run through the dishwasher.
• In a large pot filled with water, boil jars and jar lids for 15 minutes.
• Leave jars in the water until you’re ready to use them.

You’ll also need to prepare a water bath, the last step in making jam. Here’s how:

• Choose a large, wide deep pot, such as a stock pot, that will hold a few jars and be deep enough to cover jars with at least 2-in. (5-cm) of water.
• Place a wire rack in bottom of pot to elevate jars so water circulates evenly.
• Carefully slip filled and sealed jars, one at a time, into boiling water. Don’t crowd the pot – jars shouldn’t touch.
• Cover and boil according to recipe, usually about 10 minutes.
• Remove jars to a wire rack and cool completely. You can tell they’re sealed properly when the lids make a “pop” sound. Some may take up to 24 hours to seal.