How to make your own Jam – Step-By-Step Case Study (Step 3)
Many visitors to WellPreserved start by looking for how to make jam. Clicking on the Preserving tab will lead you to some quick articles on this topic as well as further articles in this case study.
Time to cook!
As you’ll recall from the last article, our cauldron of gently crushed (I love the oxymoron) raspberries and sugar have been resting for an hour. Turn the burner to a medium-high heat and bring it to a quick boil. You will boil this for 15-20 minutes – use great care as hot sugar can burn you pretty easily.
Pectin is our glue – it makes the difference between jam and juice. There is plenty of it in the fruit and the boiling process will coax the Pectin to do it’s magic work. Pectin occurs in relatively high concentration in fruit – there is little of it in vegetables (which is why I do use commercial pectin such as certo in vegetable jams and jellies (such as red pepper jelly). We are not using enough jalapeno to need to add pectin and avoiding it saves us half the sugar and preserves the taste (there’s no balance issue of bitter pectin and a offsetting sweetness).
Add the lemon juice as your jam comes to a boil – you can also add your pulverized jalapenos now. Stir frequently as sugar likes to burn. I find this a very relaxing process.
If you’ve timed everything right you’ll recall that you need to boil your empty jars for at least 10 minutes (you can boil them for longer – they key is filling hot jars with hot jam so don’t pull them out too soon; I wait for the last 3-5 minutes or sometimes pull them out as needed). You also should have a second smaller pot with water and need to bring it to a boil to put the rings and seals in for 1 minute. I bring that to a boil near the end. You can leave the seals in the water as it begins to heat – do not put the seals in until it boils and then take off the heat. Too much heat can ruin them (I’ve never had that problem so don’t be overly cautious, just be aware).
You can over or undercook a jam which can turn your intentions into sweet liquid (decent for marinade or a diluted cocktail). The process of thickening jam is called setting. There are several ways to test the set, I usually use the first two in combination:
1) Candy Thermometer. These have a clip to secure the thermometer to your pot and a probe which is submerged in the liquid to give you the temperature. Most of us require a temperature of 220 degrees Fahrenheit (200F). If you live 1,00 feet above sea level, you need 218. 2,000 Feet needs 216F – and for every additional 1,000 feet you require 2 degrees less per thousand (8,000 feet requires 205F). If you don’t know your altitude, you are likely under 1,000 as people living at high altitude often become accustomed to alltitude adjustments for this in other cooking and especially baking.
2) Quick set test #1. Place a small amount of jam on a saucer. Place in freezer for 3 minutes. Remove from freezer and draw your finger through it – like Moses parting the sea. The jam should stay separated. The additional benefit of this is that you can to lick your finger clean!
3) Quick set #2. Place a teaspoon or two of jam on a saucer, place in freezer for 5 minutes. Press on it lightly and it should wrinkly and not run. I find this too subjective for my liking.
4) Drip test. Hold your spoon over your pot for a few moments to cool any jam on it. Once cooled, turn the spoon – a firm drop should appear. I also struggle with this one and find I rarely get it to work.
CAUTION: You may need to remove your jam from the heat during this process as overcooking can break down the pectin in the jam and it should be obvious that is you leave it boil while freezing a sample for 5 minutes that the jam you are testing and the jam in the pot are two different jams with 5 minutes more heat applied. I like the candy thermometer, remove from heat and a final quick freeze test to confirm we’re good to go. If a test fails, you can bring back to a boil (this will happen quickly) and resume.
Your jars should be ready (mine are still sitting in boiling water at this point), seals and rings complete and your jam set. Turn the heat off your jam and you are ready to jar!
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