Preserving Tips: How to Thicken Jam{29}

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apricot jam and biscuitsCountdown to ecstasy…

The goal: Jam that drops from a spoon but stays on a biscuit (at least until I eat it, which is usually less than T minus ten seconds).

As a jam maker from way back, I never really embraced commercial pectin. This had more to do with my end results than any preconceived notion of its application. Sometimes I’d end up with jam that resembled a giant jello shooter or a gum drop in a votive. I would call it slicing jam or fruit gel in a jar. When I spied my homemade gifts of jam from 1998, and 1999, lining the shelf of a friend’s post-millennium pantry, I had to admit that the only thing denser than my jam was my denial of its shortcomings.

granny smith apples and sour cherriesTip One: With a decade of jam making under my ample belt, I’ve found the secret to thickening up runny low-pectin fruit jams: add an apple or two. Pectin is a naturally occurring thickener found in most fruits, though levels vary greatly. For example, apples are high pectin fruits, cherries low. vintage grater with applesWhen I make jam out of a low pectin fruit like sour cherries, I add a peeled, grated apple to the preserving pot to boost the thickness factor. Because the subtle flavor of the apple usually takes a back seat to the sour cherry, it’s a fruit marriage made in heaven where the strongest flavor wins. (No 50-50 here.) sour cherries ready for jamming

Tip Two: Another way to help thicken your jam is to put the undercooked fruit jam in a fine mesh sieve and drain the liquid. Return the liquid to the preserving pot, simmer until syrup thick then add the cooked fruit mixture back, stir and bottle up.

Here’s a list of low and high pectin fruits:

High Pectin Fruits

  • Apples (tart, under-ripe have more pectin)
  • Blackberries (also more pectin if slightly under-ripe)
  • Crabapples
  • Cranberries
  • Currants
  • Gooseberries
  • Grapes (Eastern Concord)
  • Lemons
  • Loganberries
  • Plums
  • Quinces

Low Pectin Fruits

  • Apples (overripe)
  • Chokecherries
  • Elderberries
  • Grapefruit
  • Oranges
  • Sweet and Sour Cherries
  • Apricots
  • Blueberries
  • Figs
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums (Italian)
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

Happy jam making, and remember this:  if it takes a few tries (from someone who’s been there), a runny jam is merely a reason to make an ice cream sundae.Now you see it…

…now you don’t.

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