‘Tis the Season for beautiful, jewel-shade, berry jellies, jams and preserves of all kinds.
I’ve been making cooked jam since I was a teenager, and it has always the same method, the same tools, the same ingredients. I like the fact I can spend a few uncomfortably hot Summer days cooking, and be rewarded with a year-supply of sweet, delicious condiment for my toast, peanut butter sandwiches and yogurt.
But this year, all that has changed.
I have made the most glorious change, and it has resulted in a jam with less sugar (and by less I mean 3/4 of a cup of sugar vs. 8 cups of sugar per 4-5 cups crushed fruit) that is a sure set, no need for lemon juice (in the basic berry recipe), a recipe that can be doubled or tripled (or more, if you have a large enough kettle) with no loss of gelling, and that results in perfect fruit distribution through the whole jar. That change was Pomona’s Universal Pectin.
The instructions I am going to give are for my experience with a triple batch~ which begins with 12 cups of topped, squashed strawberries. These instructions are taken directly from the information leaflet included in the Pomona’s Universal Pectin packet. One 1 oz packet will complete 1 flat of fresh berries.
Before beginning the process, I boiled all the jars needed for the batch I was making, for sterilization. The lids and rings were also placed in a separate pan and brought to a boil at this time. While this was happening, I topped berries and made up a jar of the Calcium water (monocalcium phosphate, which activates the pectin, included in the packet) as directed by the instructions ~ 1/2 tsp calcium powder per 1/2 cup water, shaken well to mix. There will be a lot of this left over after your recipe, and it can be kept for several months in the fridge, for future batches).
The squashed berries and 6 tsp of the calcium water go in the cooking pot, to be brought to a boil.
The sugar is measured separately (can be also be made with honey, using this recipe) and placed into a bowl. The pectin powder is added to the sugar or honey and blended. (I was making this recipe for family, and they are accustomed to a very sweet jam, so I used 2 cups of sugar per batch- in this instance, 6 cups total. The recipe calls for between 3/4 a cup to 2 cups per batch).
As soon as the fruit comes to a boil, the sugar or honey/pectin mixture is added to the pot, stirred thoroughly to incorporate and dissolve sugar and pectin, and brought back to a boil for 4 minutes.
Then, the finished jam is placed into the sterile, still-hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace in each. The rims need to be wiped to remove any jam which would compromise the seals. Then lids added and rings tightened.
All the filled jars go back into the boiling pot to be water-bathed for 15 minutes past boiling. This is to kill any remaining germs, to allow it to remain fresh for many months on the shelf.
All the jars are removed from the pot, and placed on a towel on the counter to seal and cool. Once the tops “pop” which indicates a complete seal, I flip them over and over as they cool (every 15-20 minutes) so the fruit distributes evenly throughout the jar. The bigger the jar, the longer this takes. Fruit floats in the jam jar, so if this step is skipped, there will be a fruit layer on top and a syrup/jelly layer on bottom. This is a natural occurrence, as sugar is heavier than fruit.
In roughly an hour (for smaller jars, or 2 for quarts- I know, crazy large for a jam jar, but my Dad eats jam at every meal, every day. His open jars never go bad before he empties them!) the jam is finished, the gel process complete and the fruit completely and evenly distributed throughout the jars.
This recipe is simple, a ton of time is saved by the ability to double and triple the recipe, so much cheaper and healthier because there is between 3- and 16-times less sugar in the jam as conventional pectin recipes, and the result is positively foolproof! You may never buy jam again. Take that BigFood!
Jars of jam make amazingly welcome gifts for all occasions, and are appreciated by everyone who receives them!
No treat so decadent as a mouthful of sweet Summer when the frost is on the pumpkin, or the snowdrifts pile up against the house.