In principle, jam is very simple, you mix sugar and fruits in variable proportions, and you cook it until it thickens.
For jelly, it’s the same except that instead of fruit you use fruit juice or pulp only.
Some important points
The quality of the fruits
It is necessary to start well the process and not to make a mistake, good jam = beautiful fruits at the beginning, it would be a mistake to use fruits a little neutral in taste, or a little spoiled, thinking that in the jam it will pass.
It’s almost the opposite, you need very nice/good fruits to make a very good jam.
Later, when you prepare your fruits, systematically eliminate all the spoiled or weak parts, you must keep only the best of the fruits.
The sugar-fruit ratio
The more sugar you put in, the more easily it takes, but the less it tastes like fruit.
Commercial jams, for example, are generally very sweet, probably too much so, because sugar is much cheaper than fruit, and it’s a question of money as usual.
A 50% fruit 50% sugar is already very good, but at home you can reduce it to 40% sugar (the ideal rate for me).
This sugar rate is also a question of taste, but also of time, jams now are much less sweet than in the past, and it’s a good thing, an apricot jam for example, should have a very clear apricot taste, and not a sweet taste with an apricot background.
You can cook the sugar/fruit mixture directly, adding a little water to thin it out, but this is not a very good option as the water will have to be boiled off afterwards.
There is a much better solution, which I already told you about in a previous article, which is to put the chopped fruits and the sugar together for at least 4 hours, or one night, and the whole thing forms a syrup (the hygroscopic side of the sugar) which can be cooked directly.
To obtain a jam, it is a mixture which thickens, just enough…
To obtain this thickening, there are 2 ways :
– The old way, used by our grandmothers, which consists in cooking the mixture, (very) long to bring the sugar to 110°C, temperature where it thickens the whole mixture.
– The more modern way is to use a gelling agent: pectin, agar-agar, gelatine… which are active at 100°C or even lower.
The old method, long cooking, which may seem “natural”, has the big defect of reducing the taste of fruits, especially with delicate fruits like strawberries for example.
The new method allows a short cooking, we bring to boil, we add the gelling agent (the famous“Vit’pris” in France which is apple pectin) and after 2 or 3 minutes of boiling the jam is ready.
As for me, I’m an unconditional fan of the use of the gelling agent, pectin, which is neutral in taste, and it’s very efficient to make a good jam or jelly.
Once the jam is ready, you have to put it in a jar, it is not very complicated, but it is very important to make sure that the inside of the jar remains sterile.
And for that, there is a very effective trick: Pour the burning jam in the jar, close it and turn it upside down (take gloves), wait 1 minute, then put it back.
By doing this, the air in the jar will pass through the burning jam and become sterilized, so you will have jam jars that can easily be kept for several months, and out of the fridge.
Here are some tracks for your future jams, can you enjoy the beautiful fruits of the summer to come.
To sum up: For good jams, choose beautiful fruits, make a syrup, cook a little (with a gelling agent), and sterilize your jars by turning them over.