Grapefruit in minty syrup

Jams, jellies, and preserves are probably one of the easiest and most popular ways to preserve fruit. They are all similar techniques executed differently for a specific product.

Jams, jellies, and preserves are the easiest preserving method to play around with. Because of the high acidity of the fruits and all the sugar, they are pretty safe to experiment with your own recipes. I prefer jams and preserves over jellies. A good jelly is very labor intensive so I never make them. Jams and preserves are insanely easy to make.
Jams are crushed or chopped fruit cooked with sugar suntil the mixture is firm but spreadable. It can be made with one fruit or a combination of fruit.

Jellies are juices that are strained from fruit and prepared in a way that keeps the juice crystal clear. They should be gelatinized enough to hold the shape of the jar but spreadable.

Preserves are fruit preserved in sugar so that it retains it’s shape. The syrup varies from thickness of honey to soft jelly. It will not hold it’s shape when spooned from a jar.

In jams, jellies, and preserves, sugar is the main preservative in the product and works by replacing the water in the food. The general rule of thumb is to use the same amount of sugar as the amount of product. For example, if you wanted to make strawberry jam and you had 4 cups of chopped strawberries, you would add 4 cups of sugar.

Grapefruit in minty syrup

“WOW!,” You say. “That is a whole hell of a lot of sugar!”

And, you would be right; I don’t use nearly that much. I always, at least, half the sugar. If I have 4 cups of fruit, I use 2 cups of sugar. I want the flavor of the fruit to shine through, not the flavor of the sugar. That’s the beauty of making your own preserved foods, you can control exactly what you put in it.

Many people use pectin in their jams to set their jams. The positive side of using pectin is you get a great yield of product because the pectin will set the syrup almost immediately.

I do not like the mouth feel of pectin so I do not use it. Because I don’t use pectin, I have to cook down my jams and preserves until they set. Since I don’t use pectin, I get smaller yields of jams and softer sets. I don’t mind the softer set because I prefer my jams very spreadable. I don’t mind the smaller yields because it’s just me and I don’t go through a lot of jam. If you have children who like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, you may be concerned with less yield. Since I don’t use pectin, I use a candy thermometer to gauge the temperature of my jams. Since jams set at 220F, when my mixture comes to 220F, that’s when I know it’s ready to can. Saying that, there are just some recipes that need pectin and I will clearly state if pectin is used in a recipe of mine.

Another nice thing about jams and preserves is something called masceration. Masceration is just a technique of soaking the fruit in sugar. You can mascerate for a couple hours to a few days…and you will usually end up with higher yields as well. Soaking the fruit in sugar leaches out the water of the fruit. It also stops the fruit from going bad, so if you don’t have time to make that jam right away but you have 5 lbs of fruit, just chop it up, add the sugar, and pop it in your fridge. 4 days later when you have time to make that jam, pour that fruit and sugar into your preserving pan and there you go!

I also love to add herbs and spices to my jams. My favorite is vanilla bean, then basil, then mint. You’d be surprised but basil goes so well in jams. It adds a wonderful floral flavor to the bright sweetness of jams and preserves.

When you are done making the jam/preserve you will boiling water bath them to make them shelf stable. You can follow my method for Boiling Water Bath here at Kitchen Tactics: Boiling Water Bath Canning.

The example I used for this post were Strawberry Mint Jam and Strawberry Vanilla Jam.

Strawberry Mint Jam

6 cups Strawberries, Chopped

3 cups sugar

1/2 cup mint

1 t butter

3 T lemon juice (I use bottled)

 

  1. In a large 1/2 gallon jar add 6 cups strawberries, 1 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup mint.  Mascerate in your fridge for at least 24 hours.
  2. When you are ready to preserve, pour the strawberry mixture into a large preserving pan, add 2 cups of sugar, the butter, and the lemon juice.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 220F.
  3. Following Kitchen Tactics:  Boiling Water Bath Canning, BWB for 10 minutes.

Strawberry Vanilla Jam

6 cups strawberries, chopped
3 cups sugar
2 vanilla beans, scraped
1 t butter
3 T lemon juice (I use bottled)
  1. In a large 1/2 gallon jar add 6 cups strawberries, 1 cup sugar, and 2 scraped vanilla beans with the pods.  Mascerate in your fridge for at least 24 hours.
  2. When you are ready to preserve, pour the strawberry mixture into a large preserving pan, add 2 cups of sugar, the butter, and the lemon juice.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 220F.  Remove vanilla pods before canning and discard.
  3. Following Kitchen Tactics:  Boiling Water Bath Canning, BWB for 10 minutes.

 

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