The Evolution of Making Jam

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Yummy berries from Jenala Farms, near Shelburne

Ever since I was a young girl, the beginning of strawberry season was synonymous with the beginning of jam season.  We had a huge strawberry patch, and although my mother did freeze some (and make strawberry wine occasionally), most of the berries that weren’t eaten fresh were made into jam.  Back in those days, that meant cleaning the berries, putting them into a heavy-bottomed roasting pan on the stove, pouring a huge amount of sugar over top, and cooking them for hours, until they thickened up.  It really did take hours, and I still remember the wooden spoon we used….it had worn down so much over the years from stirring along the bottom of the pan,  that one edge was straight!

The jam often came out a very dark colour because of the long cooking process, but it was also very sweet, and tasted more like sugar than berries, in retrospect.  Nonetheless, it was home made and we loved it!

When I got married, and started making my own jam, I used a product called Certo, which is an additive-free pectin which sets the fruit and sugar into jam.  Eventually, I switched over to Certo Light, which uses less sugar.  Still, 6 cups of prepared strawberries need 4 1/2 cups of sugar.  Although that’s a lot better than the regular Certo product and certainly better than my mother’s method, it’s still a heck of a lot of refined sugar.

Last year, I switched to organic sugar (mainly because much of today’s refined sugar is made with genetically modified sugar beets), but was still trying to find a way to make a good jam without using refined white sugar.  (I did switch to honey for making my peach and pear preserves.)

Pomona’s Universal Pectin is the product I’ve been looking for!  I read about it on Facebook (imagine that!), and found some at Harmony Whole Foods, our awesome local health food store.   It can also be found at Whole Foods and ordered online.   A box of Pomona’s costs just over $6, but because you use a fraction of the amount of sugar, and because one box actually makes quite a bit of jam, it’s very economical.  In addition, if sealed and stored properly, this dry naturally-derived pectin (from citrus fruit) will keep for years, unlike the Certo products which have an expiration date of about a year.

I eagerly made some strawberry jam.  The instructions called for 4 cups of mashed strawberries and 1/2 to 1 cup of honey.  I used the minimum amount of honey for the first batch, then increased it to 3/4 cup (which we preferred).  Because there is a lot less sugar, it takes more berries to make the jam, as I quickly discovered.  No worries, this product is so easy to use, you can double or triple the recipe batches, if you want – something that is not recommended with Certo.

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Delicious strawberry jam

Last week, I bought a flat of raspberries at the Shelburne Farmers’ Market, and a flat of blueberries at the Elora Farmers’ Market.  Some were put into the freezer for winter DSCN9461smoothies and desserts, and the rest were made into jam.  You can see in the photo the 3 kg. pail of honey I bought from Cedarwood Honey of Harriston, one of our Elora market vendors.  Honey has become the staple for sweetening in my kitchen, in addition to maple syrup and Sucanat . It’s still a sugar, but because it is so flavourful, I can use a lot less for delicious taste.

DSCN9462Another thing I appreciate about this new pectin product, is that it encourages experimentation with different fruit combinations, with lots of guidelines and suggestions.  There are no-cook freezer recipe ideas, as well as jellies (including crabapple, grape or hot pepper jelly recipes).

The basic steps are to mix up a calcium powder with water (included), which helps activate the pectin.  This is added to the prepared fruit, which is then boiled.  The sweetener (ie. honey) is mixed with the pectin powder and added to the fruit.  Stir for a couple of minutes to ensure that the pectin has properly dissolved, bring to a boil, and you’re done!

The jam is put into clean sterile jars, which are then put in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes or so.  Alternatively, we often put a bit less jam in the jars, close them, and freeze, for less work (which sort of defies the whole purpose of putting it in jars!)  Anyhow, my point is that making your own delicious jam is not as difficult as it seems.  And making it more nutritious and healthy, by not using refined white sugar is actually quite economical.  There’s nothing nicer than opening a jar in the middle of winter, and enjoying the taste of summer!

There are still lots of amazing local fruit coming into season this year.  I can’t wait to try making Maple-Vanilla-Peach jam!!   Why not give jam-making a try this year?  Your family and friends will love you for it….  Happy Jamming!

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for the details for this product…..and so glad to hear it’s working well. With it just me these days, I don’t do this like I used to do for an appreciative “honey” but the sugar amounts has also somewhat stopped me. I look forward to trying this.

    Reply

  2. You’re very welcome, Mary. Thank you for your feedback and let me know how it works for you.

    Reply

  3. oh my lord….I have woeful time/energy for canning preserves but this post just filled me to the brim with sweetness, in more ways than one. We made jam a few times when I was a kid (mostly we focused on applesauce) and the aroma gets indelibly imprinted in your memory bank. I will go to sleep tonight, smelling hot strawberries in a pan of sugar…. thanks for the pictures too. : )

    Reply

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