Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How to Make: Homemade, no sugar/low sugar Jam


Every couple of years I make jam/preserves/jelly whatever you want to call them. I say every couple of years because I tend to make two to three dozen jars at a time. I know what you thinking, “What the heck does she do with it all!” Well, I’ll you. First, I have two kids who are PBJ-aholics. You ask my daughter what she wants for lunch and she will tell you, “PB-Jelly please!” How can I tell her no? Now I know you’re thinking about all the sugar that is in not only the jelly but the peanut butter as well, but since this post is how to make jelly and not peanut butter, we’ll only focus on the jelly for now. The sugar in my jelly, is all natural. It comes from the fruit it self and nothing else. Now that the sugar issue is explained, lets get down to the cost. When the particular fruit you want to use is in season and you can get it for cheap, then do so, BUT make sure the fruit is ripe and taste good. “Ripe” fruit you get in a store is usually far from being truly ripe and never had a chance to develop flavor. Here’s my secret. I use frozen fruit! Frozen fruit is always picked when it’s ripe. They are always sweet and I know you probably have a bag in your freezer right now for smoothies. Frozen fruits have always made the best jams for me and because they’re frozen, most brands haven’t added any additional sugar either. The next thing you need are canning jar. I use the half pint jars because it works better for my family then the real tiny jars. I don’t get the fancy ones either. Just the regular half pint jars with bands and lids.  The last thing you need is pectin and maybe some lemon juice. The pectin is what makes jam, jam. It binds the fruit and juice together to create the giggly consistency. You can find it in any super market, right where you’d find the canning jars. I don’t buy the boxes anymore either. I used too, but I found out that one packaged wasn’t enough for my jams to set properly. So now, I buy the container. Make sure you buy the one that says no sugar/low sugar formula. Otherwise, you’re looking at about 5 cups of sugar for a batch of jam.  Then all you do is follow the directions. This particular brand let me do anywhere from 2 to 10 jars at a time. For every two jars I needed a specific amount of fruit, water and pectin. I could add sugar or honey if I choose too and certain fruits, like blueberries, required some lemon juice as well. I will tell you that my batches of 10 jars, only made batches of 8 jars. Why? Not sure, but this has always been the case when it come to me and making jams.

So I crushed my fruit, stirred in the water and pectin and boiled away. Once it was cooked, I ladled it into my clean and sterilized jars, put the tops on and into my water bath canner it went. Don’t have a water bath canner? No problem! You just need a pot deep enough to cover your jars with 1 to 2 inches of boiling water. I could have done that in my pasta pot with no problem. Boil them for 10 minutes, carefully remove and let them cool for 24 hours. After that time, push down on the top. If it springs back, it didn’t seal and you need to store it in the fridge. If it did seal, store it in your pantry where it will last a few years. Oh and by the way. If you hear POP during the time the jars are in the canner or sitting on the counter, it’s alright. It’s just the sealing of the jar.

Once a jar of jam has been opened, store it in your fridge until it’s gone!

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