Making small-batch homemade jam is a great way to capture the best fruits of the season. Best of all, its easy and quick!
It's difficult to fill your belly so completely with the abundance of summer fresh fruit that your taste memories will last the rest of the year. (Believe us, we've tried!) But, you can capture more of the summer cornucopia by making fresh fruit jam at home. And, you can do so without spending too much time in the kitchen, when you ought to be out enjoying the delicious weather!
The entire process of making fresh fruit jam - from cutting up the fruit to spooning it into its storage jar - rarely takes more than about 50 minutes, and it's ridiculously easy. We don't use a water bath to seal the jar; instead, we just store our jam in the refrigerator, then swirl it into yogurt, spoon it onto toast, and spreading it into cookie bars made with our Cookie recipe!
We also don't add pectin to set our jam (like the fig jam we used in this recipe,) because fruits contain pectin naturally. When heated with sugar, a thickening occurs that gives jam and jelly their texture.
In order to successfully make jam at home - to achieve the right texture (and the right sweetness) and to leave out the pectin, consider these jam-making factors:
Lots of summer fruits make terrific jam: berries, plums, peaches, figs and even cantaloupe! Some are sweeter than others and, if your fruit is rather tart you may want to add a bit of extra sugar depending on your preferences.
Generally speaking, slightly underripe fruit contains more natural pectin (which will give your jam a thicker structure.) To strike a great balance of sweet and jammy, we suggest a combination of underripe and ripe fruit for your jam-making.
Lemon juice is added to jam to give acetic balance and to add pectin (the rind, particularly, had a good amount of pectin in it!) We like to have a big slice of well-washed, unwaxed lemon on hand when making jam so that - after squeezing the lemon slice into the fruit and sugar - we can toss it into a pot to cook along side the jam. Then, fish out the lemon slice when you're done cooking the jam and ready to jar it.
The Cooking Process
Jam made without pectin (even when the natural pectin is activated) is gels into a sticky, cohesive mass when cool but is generally a little runnier than jam made with added pectin. That said, when it's hot, it will be runnier so it can be difficult to tell if its set enough, or if you've cooked it long enough!
A frozen spoon can be helpful to test if you've cooked your jam long enough (because a metal spoon at room temperature will warm quickly and the jam will run off.) Simply freeze a spoon or two and dip them into your jam as its cooking to test for desired consistency. When you like how thick it is, and you like how sweet it is, it's done!
You can use whatever glass jar you have on hand to make jam. Be sure that the jar is clean and that it has a good seal. Since we aren't striving for shelf-stable jam, we don't worry about sterilizing the jar before putting the jam in it, but this is because the jam is going straight into the refrigerator. We also label the jar with the flavor and the date (though our homemade jam never lasts long in the fridge!)
Ready to "jam?" Give this recipe for homemade fig jam (and cookie bars to use them in) a try!