Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Lets be honest by saying that when someone mentions "jam", everyone really thinks "raspberry jam". by no means does that make the existence of other fruit jams unimportant but it does make raspberry jam the king. if i am going to make jam at home, i am making raspberry. i made some blackberry last year and it was awesome, but it still sits in the freezer, mostly untouched, because my family really didnt want to bother with it because there was raspberry jam i made as well. i grew up eating raspberry (of course) jam that my grandmother made every year with raspberries that she grew in her own garden. at work we make our own jam (and even most of our own breads-another story) for breakfast service and i am even able to buy a brand of frozen berries only from Oregon so i can make local berry jams year round. when the berry market prices drop we will buy flat after flat of them for the sole purpose of jam. freezer jam especially is a great use of any berry and some fruits that are passing their prime and need to be used.

the local fall raspberry market is in full swing and the prices and quality are very good. i made three gallons of jam at work yesterday evening and have just shy of a flat that will be jam at the house by later today or tomorrow. i like using fall berries as they are priced a bit cheaper and tend to be a bit sweeter than the early summer Oregon berries are. i love making freezer jam. freezer jam is intended to be stored in the freezer or even the fridge and is not shelf stable. cooked jam is cooked and then usually sealed to be shelf stable. jam and jelly differ in that jam has chunks of fruit, and usually seeds, while jelly is made from the juice of fruit so has no seeds or pulp.

pectin is the thickener in jam (although gelatin-animal derived, was commonly used in years past) and it is derived from the skins and flesh of different types of fruit. it is available in powder form almost anywhere but i use liquid pectin. it has a better mouth feel and considered to be far superior. it is expensive, but available at most grocery store or pharmacies (pharmacies also are a great place for canning jars and equipment). the coolest thing about liquid pectin is that inside the box will be the exact recipe for any sort of freezer jam, cooked jam, or jelly that you could ever want to fabricate. we actually make a savory jalapeno and lime jelly at work that is derived from the recipe in the box. it will even tell you how much fruit to buy to yield the amount of product you want to make. pectin in general is pretty odd stuff. the thing i hate about it is that is so perfectly formulated that you have to follow the exact recipe. you can not double up a batch as it wont set correctly. and the thing that bothers me most is that you can not adjust sugar levels. if you think about it, most fruits are much sweeter in season then out of season. they also are much better the less they have traveled, how ripe they were when they were picked, etc. if i have raspberries that are more sweet than tart i would love to adjust sugar levels in the jam to even that out, or even vice a versa. liquid pectin just wont let me do that. i am convinced if i had a more sound knowledge of food science i could figure it out, but havent been able to do it yet.

making jam at home is extremely easy. it is also a product that most households will use often, and one of the most pure food preservation methods available. it does take a lot of sugar, but store bought jams can be sweetened with HFCS, and other sweeteners i like to stay away from. this way i know i exactly what went into it, and just a flat or so of berries will satisfy my families need for jam until the local berries are available again.

the picture is just about every prep bowl that wasnt in use and more than half of the prep table, as well as measuring cups, pectin boxes, lemon juice, whisks, spatulas, and buckets to store the jam in. there is also a bunch of whisking involved and at one point i actually had a cramp in both of my forearms. it was the last task i had to do to finish my work week, so i was working as quick as i could.

1 comment:

  1. Do you use a waterbath for canning at home? I would love to make some blackberry jam this year, I cant even believe what they put in jam at the store, and it gets expensive to buy organic!