The basics to making jam at home
There are few snacks I can think of that are more delightful than a toasted slice of bread with jam. It’s such a simple snack, but it’s so tasty. Just like anything else, jam is infinitely better when it’s homemade; of course it’s fresher, and the flavors are stronger and more authentic. Fortunately, as I recently discovered, making your own jam is actually pretty easy. And not only that: it’s a money saver—double win! Here is a rundown of the steps needed to make your own jam.
First of all, you should know that the difference between jam, preserves, and jelly. Jam is made with mashed up or pureed fruit, while preserves are made with whole or sliced fruit, and jelly is made using just the juice from the fruit. Jelly is generally harder to make because it needs to reach a particular consistency in order for it to hold, while with jam and preserves a range of thicknesses can be considered acceptable.
Depending on the consistency you want your jam to have, you can either puree the fruit in a food processor or crush it manually, or you can do a combination of both. Once you have the fruit at the consistency of your liking, you mix it with sugar and bring it to a boil in a saucepan. Some recipes also call for pectin, a thickening agent, and lemon juice. Whether or not you use pectin and lemon juice depends on how thick you want your jam to get.
As the mixture cooks at a boil, you should be sure to stir often, as it can burn easily. If it does burn, the burnt flavor permeates the entire batch, so you want to avoid that at all costs. As your jam cooks, it will thicken. In addition, foam will start to form on the top of the mixture. Most people recommend skimming this foam from the top so that the jam comes out clear instead of frothy.
When you think the jam might be done cooking, you can place a small spoonful on a cold plate (the plate should be put in the freezer ahead of time). If the jam runs, it needs more cooking time. But if it holds its shape, it has reached a good thickness and can be removed from the heat.
The process of placing the jam into jars must be done in a particular way. You should use a funnel (if you have one) and carefully ladle the mixture into the jars. Before you screw the tops on, you should make sure there is no jam on the rims, as this will prevent the jars from sealing properly. Once the tops are screwed on, you place the jars upside down for a few minutes. When you turn them right side up again, you listen for a popping sound, which means that the cap is sealed and the jar is airtight.
And voilà! Your jam is ready to be enjoyed or refrigerated for later consumption.
Apart from the perhaps unnecessary narrative interludes, the following video does a good job of showing all the steps in the jam-making process. And at every step, the women in the video provide an explanation for why they’re doing what they’re doing, which is helpful. I think it’s worth a watch.
Cover photo source.