Category Archives: Jam

Making Fig Jam

Didn’t expect this, did you? Well I happened to receive a quantity of figs yesterday. They were very small and ripe, so action was called for. Fig jam is incredibly easy to make since you don’t have to worry about gelling like you do with most fruit jams. Figs are plenty thick and sugary in their natural state. The only issue you have with figs is — depending on how large they are — softening their thick skins. These were small and ripe so they didn’t need much softening. I had just 1 1/2 pounds.

I put them in a medium saucepan with the zest and juice of half a lemon…

…then gave them a brief mash (you don’t have to do this if you’d rather have more of a “preserve” with large pieces of fruit).

I added 1 cup of sugar and brought the whole thing to a simmer over medium heat, then turned the heat down to low.

The jam should simmer for at least fifteen minutes, but can go for up to an hour of the skins are really thick.

Simmer the jam until it reaches the thickness you want. Once the skins are soft, dribble a little onto a plate that’s been in the freezer for a while and is good and cold. Let it sit for 1 minute, and decide if it’s thick enough. If not, keep simmering…but be careful not to reduce it to glue!

This jam can be canned according to the directions in the techniques menu. Alternately it can be frozen in small plastic freezer bags for up to six months.

This recipe can be doubled to:

3 pounds ripe figs
2 cups sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon

Use a large pot for this size batch.

Filed under:  Fig Jam, Pastry | 17 Comments

Tomato Jam

For those of you who find it impossible to believe that tomatoes can work as a sweet, I urge you to try this recipe. Not just because it’s delicious, but because it unfailingly simmers down to just the right consistency…no need to check for “gelling” like you do with standard fruit jams. Believe me, you can’t go wrong. So here it is:

18 fresh tomatoes, for a total of about 3.5 – 4 pounds tomato flesh
2 pounds sugar
1 lemon sliced thin and seeded
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
3 sticks cinnamon

Score the tomatoes by cutting a shallow “x” in the bottom of each, and blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes. When cool remove the skins, core them, squeeze out the seeds and drain in a colander. Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot, bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer one hour.

Put jam into hot sterilized jars and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water canner. Makes about 8 half-pint jars.

If you don’t want to go to the trouble of canning, this jam can also be frozen in small bags.

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Blueberry Jam

Blueberry-cinnamon jam to be precise, though these general instructions can be applied to just about any kind of jam. It all starts of course with fruit. Most people use fresh fruit, fresh picked especially, but I’ve known more than a few people to use frozen. Frozen? Yes, frozen. It doesn’t make terribly much sense from a cost standpoint, but if you live in an urban area, love homemade jam, but don’t have easy access to orchard-fresh fruit, it’ll do. It can even be superior depending on the fruit and the time of year.

So then, it all starts with a good rinsing of your berries. Once they’re air-dried, I find it’s helpful to pour them out onto a sheet pan and roll them around a bit. Errant stems will usually pop off as you do this, plus it makes overripe or damaged fruit easy to spot.

Here I’m pouring them off into my pot and you can see what’s left behind (I didn’t see half of these when I started):

You want to use a deep pot so there’s plenty of room for any froth to rise. Here I’m using a six-quart dutch oven which I find works just about perfectly.

Now: mash. This step of course releases juice, but it’s also critical for exposing the interiors of the blueberry skins, which is where your pectin will mostly come from. A potato masher works great, this one is sort of a combo masher-cutter:

Now’s a good time to add any flavorings you might want. In this case, a half teaspoon of cinnamon. If the berries are very large or seem a little soft I’ll generally add a teaspoon of powdered pectin here to help the jam to gel.

An important trick to getting a good gel is heating the fruit slowly at first (to tease out the pectins), then cranking the flame up at the very final stage. Start by bringing the mashed fruit to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat (forgive some of these photos, they’re a little dark and blurry and/or steamy, but YOU try taking perfect pictures in low light conditions over a pot of boiling jam!).

In goes the acid (lemon juice)…

…and the sugar…

…then we turn up the heat to medium-high. What you’re after here is a short, hard boil for about three minutes or so. That’s the point at which you want to start checking for gelling.

Which, admittedly, is harder than it sounds. This is were most first (or second or third)-time jam makers tend to get confused, since a “gel” is by no means an obvious thing. The mixture doesn’t suddenly turn to thick syrup, in fact a “gelled” jam still looks quite thin to the untrained eye (this is because the jam is very, very hot). So what are you looking for then? The answer is a subtle change in viscosity from water-like to something a bit less that water-like. Also, a change in color to a slightly darker, richer hue.

I know that sounds maddeningly ambiguous, but that’s jam-making for you, and why most people nowadays use packaged pectin (if you were using packaged pectin, this would be the time to add it: stir it in, wait 30 seconds, then quickly kill the heat so as not to destroy its thickening ability). But then I’m a like-grandma-used-to-make kinda jam maker, so I does my best and takes my chances. Having tried several methods, I think the spoon-drop test is the most reliable. What you’re looking for is a bit of a subtlety, what some people refer to as “sheeting” of the hot jam…the slow-ish convergence of two drops into one large drop before it falls off the rim of the spoon (the larger the spoon the better for this). Two drops falling right next to each other is also a dead giveaway of a gel — and it frequently happens with blueberry jam after 2-4 minutes of hard boiling. An accumulation of jam near the bottom lip of the spoon is also a strong indicator. Look here:

See that dark area at the very bottom of the spoon just above the drip? You won’t see that unless your jam is very near, or at, the gelling point. Prior to that point the hot jam just pours off the spoon like water, leaving virtually nothing behind. At the gelling point the jam still pours off easily, but has a somewhat higher viscosity. Drips fall off rather slowly leaving an accumulation on the rim. Anyway that’s the best I can describe it. If in doubt just quit the cooking after 5-8 minutes with a berry jam, or after 20 with stone fruit jams. Your jam may not be the ideal consistency — thought it just might — but at the very least the end product will be useful as a topping.

Pack this jar into 8-ounce jars apply the lids and rings and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. Successfully canned, this jam will keep for up to two years.

Feel like giving it a try? Oh come on…don’t be a sissy. What would great grandma say?

Filed under:  Blueberry Jam, Bread | 5 Comments

Blueberry Jam Recipe

As adapted from Recipes from Home. It goes like this:

2 quarts (about 2.5 pounds) blueberries
1 teaspoon powdered pectin (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
4 1/2 cups (2 pounds) sugar

Makes six 8-ounce jars.

Filed under:  Blueberry Jam, Jam, Pastry Components | Leave a comment