Nothing beats the naturally sweet and fresh flavours of homemade jam. It is extremely quick and easy to make, plus with the possibility of having a wide range of amazing flavours and textures, from real fruits and choice ingredients, you’ve got a winner on your hands!
So, I was invited a while back to this brunch by an old friend, and while there, I had the pleasure of enjoying some really delicious homemade jams with some scones and crepes. The hostess of the brunch was an amateur jam maker herself and had an impressive array of homemade jams for her guests to try out. I got to taste a handful; peach, raspberry, mango, strawberry, kiwi, mixed berries, tangerine and a whole host of others; and they were all absolutely delicious — the textures, flavours, the perfect blend of sweet and sour, all-natural with no additives … I was in jam heaven.
You’ve never tried jam until you’ve had homemade jam made from fresh fruits. Fruits are naturally sweet, so jam does not need to be filled with loads of sugar for it to be delicious. The strong, fresh flavours of the fruits come through beautifully and make it so much tastier than most store-bought jams. The best part is that the jam is free from artificial colourings or preservatives. So literally a win, win, win! Excellent for breakfast, brunch or dessert, your homemade jam can be topped or spread on everything — Ice cream, muffins, toast, bagels, waffles, pancakes, sandwich, etc. And if you want to get fancy with it, add it to your granola and Greek yoghurt parfait or use as a doughnut or cake filling. The possibilities are pretty much as endless as it is delicious! So why buy jam when you can make yours to suit your preference.
My beloved is a jam lover. He loves to spread it on his toast or scones for breakfast. So, in the previous years I always made sure to never run out of good quality store-bought jam for him. But ever since I got to taste all the yumminess that is homemade jam, I was like whoaaa!!! What was stopping me from making my own? And with that, I turned to the internet.
Upon my research I discovered that jam-making doesn’t need to be a tedious process, in fact, it can be surprisingly really easy, and much healthier too, since you have total control of what you are putting in it. When you make your own jam, you have the choice of eliminating all artificial sugars and preservatives in your recipe. And as another winning argument, once you make a good batch of jam, you can let your imagination run wild and start mixing flavours. You can have a combination of whichever fruits you like and even add any ingredients of your choice such as cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, mint, citrus zest, ginger, chia seeds; in fact whatever you like, you can use to make your jam just as you like it.
Being the overachiever that I am, when I set off on my jam-making journey I couldn’t stop cranking out these babies. I made a whole lotta jam with a wide variety of fruits. This was mainly to get better at my jam-making skills, but also to find out which fruit or fruit combinations particularly stood out for me. CONCLUSION: I don’t think there’s anything that will lead me to store-bought jam ever again.
No fruits or combination of fruits are out of bounds (apples, oranges, plums, pears, figs, cherries, apricots, pineapples, mangoes, kiwis, peaches, etc); and so far, I’ve not really disliked any fruit (combinations) for my jam but for banana. I did not like banana jam AT ALL and I don’t think I will be making it ever again. Mixed berries jam and passion fruit/mango jam have been my favourites so far, and my beloved’s as well. But lately, I’ve also been liking my kiwi and tangerine jams very much — they are slowly getting up the list of my favourites.
The beauty of homemade jam is that its recipe is more or less the same with 3 main ingredients: (chopped) fruit, sugar and a bit of citrus juice (lemon or lime) which will serve as the natural pectin to set the jam. If you are a health nut, swap the sugar for honey or maple syrup, or since fruit that is in season is naturally very sweet, you could even skip the sweetener altogether and you’d still have a very delicious all-natural sugar-free jam. Jam made from only citrus fruit (oranges, lemons, grapefruits, kumquats) is called a MARMALADE because it is made using the whole fruit including its peel. The inclusion of the fruit peel can add a mildly bitter flavour to the final product so better be aware before venturing into marmalade territory.
Now, some important facts I learnt on my quest for the perfect homemade jam.
Yes, you can use frozen fruit if you don’t have fresh fruit on hand; it’s just a matter of preference. It’s perfectly okay to use frozen fruits because these fruits are picked and frozen at peak ripeness, so they still have all their nutrients. I use whichever one I have on hand. Some fruits are not grown in my country so I have to settle for frozen fruit. However, using frozen fruit means a slightly longer cook time as they have extra water that you’ll need to boil off. But if you are using fresh fruit, best to stick to seasonal fruits for the best quality and natural sweetness.
This can sometimes be tricky, but there’s an easy little trick to test for gelling and ensuring that your jam is set and ready! When you start making your jam, place 3 plates in the freezer. After about 10 minutes of boiling, pour a teaspoon of jam on to one of the plates from the freezer, and wait for about 1 minute. Run your finger through the jam and if it doesn’t try to run back, then the jam is set. If it does, keep boiling the jam and test it on a fresh plate from the freezer every 5 minutes until the jam is set.
Absolutely! Pectin is a type of water-soluble carbohydrate that is found in ripe fruit and vegetables, and used in making fruit jellies and jams. While you can add pectin to speed up the jam-making process, with a little patience, any fruit jam can still set beautifully without any added pectin. Some fruits just have less pectin than others, which means they don’t gel as readily as others when you’re making jam. However, low pectin does not mean no pectin, so fruits with low pectin will still create a lovely jam after about 20 minutes of cooking. Citrus fruits (limes, lemons, oranges etc) are very high pectin fruits; so to boost the pectin content of any low pectin fruit and cut cooking time, you need some amount of citrus juice.
Since the jam isn’t canned it will only be at its best in the fridge for about 2 to 3 weeks. The lemon juice in the recipe is natural pectin and will help keep bacteria from growing in the jam!
Before starting the jam-making process, place a few small plates into the freezer to use to test for gelling as the jam reaches completion.
¤ Thoroughly wash, peel, seed and dice your fruit into ½ inch cubes.
Of course, this stage is skipped in case you are using frozen fruit.
¤ Toss the chopped fruit into a non-stick or heavy-bottomed saucepan along with the sugar and citrus juice. Be sure that the contents of the pot only come 1/3rd of the way up the pot at this point to prevent overflows when the jam is cooking.
¤ Place the pan on the stove and turn heat to high. Bring to a boil until the sugar dissolves and the fruits break down (you can use a fork or potato masher if you want to crush your fruit even more – personally I like to leave in a few chunks), then turn heat to medium and continue to cook for about 20 – 25 minutes while constantly stirring to prevent the sugar from caramelising at the bottom of the pan.
¤ If a layer of froth appears on the top, use a spoon to remove it and continue cooking until desired consistency. As the jam approaches gel stage, the bubbles and foam will slow down and the surface of the jam will take on a shiny appearance. The texture of the bubbles will change, and they’ll be larger and slower to pop. That’s how you know the jam is getting close to setting. To check the required consistency, use a spoon to put a dollop of jam on a plate that’s been chilled in the freezer and let it cool. The jam is ready when it forms a skin that is firm enough to wrinkle when you push it with your fingertip.
¤ Add some lemon juice (juice from at least 1 lemon), stir, and turn off the flame. Let the jam cool to room temperature; the jam will thicken a little bit more as it cools. The lemon juice is optional but I absolutely love the blend of sweet and slight tartness in my jam so I always add some lemon juice.
¤ Ladle the jam into warm sterilized airtight glass jars and allow the jam to cool before placing it in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. There you have it, no artificial preservatives homemade jam.
NOTE: If you are into canning and preserving, process the canned jam in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. I’ve never experimented with all of that, so I cannot offer any solid advice on the canning part, but this recipe would be just perfect for preserving if that’s your thing.
One thing I have learnt about making jam is that, like any skill, the more you make it, the more you get the hang of it and you get better at it. The ability to customize your own jam and really personalize it makes homemade jam a really fun DIY. You can obtain some pretty amazing jams both in flavour and texture by getting creative with your fruit combinations and spices. These fun creations will be so awesome on crackers, biscuits, croissants, crêpes, spooned over natural yoghurt, as a filling for any cake of your choice and every way you love to enjoy your jam. You can also add a splash of white or dark rum to this recipe if you like too. What’s not to love?
Something important I failed to mention above was the sterilization process of your storage jars. This step is very crucial to ensure that your final product is fit for consumption, free of any kind of bacteria which may cause illness to the consumer. This can only be accomplished when all items used in the jam-making process are clean, and this includes all the surfaces in your canning area and especially your hands. Also, your storage jars should be made from glass and free of any chips or cracks, and are topped with glass, plastic or metal lids that have a rubber-like seal.
How, to sterilize your jars before filling them with jam:
1) Wash jars and lids with hot, soapy water.
2) Rinse well and arrange jars and lids open sides up, without touching, on a tray.
3) Leave the jars in a preheated 175ºF oven for 25 minutes or boil the jars and lids in a large saucepan, covered with water, for 15 minutes.
4) Use tongs when handling the hot sterilised jars, to move them from either boiling water or the oven. Be sure the tongs are sterilised too, by dipping the ends in boiling water for a few minutes before usage.
Your jars are now ready to be filled with your delicious homemade jam. You can either store in the fridge for immediate use (about 2 -3 weeks) or process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes (jam could last up to 1 year in the pantry).
If you have the means to make your jam from scratch, you should really try it out – you will never buy jam from a store again. And it’s better to make in small batches so you will be able to try out different flavours more often. Jam is something you can make with kids as a fun kitchen activity or make and offer as personalised gifts for mother’s day, Christmas gifts or just because, to friends and family. Making jam can also be a creative activity to do with friends during a bridal shower or baby shower or even as a fun team building activity with colleagues. Feel free to experiment and play around with your favourite flavours, consistency, and extra add-ins. The sky’s the limit to what you can create. So have fun with this one!