Universal Jam Recipe
Making jam is probably the very easiest way to get started with canning.
The instructions for basic jams are all pretty much the same – you only need to make minor modifications for different fruits.
So, because we’re all creative people, I’m laying out the general how-to, giving you a chart with special instructions fruit by fruit, and you can take it from there. There are two different methods below – one without pectin (which is my preferred method) and one for those who wish to use pectin (a speedier process).
Making Jam without Pectin
For years, when I made jam, I reached for a box of pectin from the store. Then I spent some time reading up on store-bought pectin and I was very unhappy to discover the jams I’d been making for my family had been tainted with GMOs. I had unknowingly been contaminating the carefully sourced fruit and pricey turbinado sugar with the very things I strive to avoid, and I hadn’t even given it a second thought.
You can learn more about why I no longer use pectin HERE.
After a great deal of experimentation, I came up with a method for jam-making that we love. In comparison with the boxed pectin jam, it doesn’t gel quite as much, but after trying this jam, the texture of the other now seems slightly artificial to me. This produces a softer preserve with an incredibly intense fruit flavor. As well, when using this method, you don’t get that layer of foam that you have to skim off the top like you do with the boxed pectin method.
Universal No-Pectin Jam Recipe
- 7 pounds of fresh or frozen fruit (approximately 14-20 cups)
- ¼ cup of lemon or lime juice
- 5 cups + 2 tbsp of sugar
- Piece of clean cotton fabric for draining (I used a flour sack towel. This will be permanently stained, so don’t use something you want to keep pretty.)
- Prepare your fruit. For berries, this means washing them and sorting them, removing little leaves and twigs, as well as berries that are shriveled. Leave the odd green berry in, because less ripe fruit has more naturally occurring pectin than ripe fruit. For fruits like apples or peaches, this might mean blanching and peeling them, then removing the cores.
- Mash, finely chop, or puree your fruit. I used a blender to puree half of the fruit, and a food processor to finely chop the other half. We prefer a rough puree texture.
- Pour this into a large crock or non-reactive bowl, layering your fruit with 3 of the cups of sugar. I use the ceramic insert from my crock-pot for this.
- Leave the fruit and sugar mixture in your refrigerator overnight. The juice from the fruit will combine with the sugar and form a slightly gelled texture. Some liquid will separate from the sugar and fruit.
- The next day, line a colander with a piece of fabric. Place the colander into a pot to catch the liquid from the fruit and sugar mixture. Pour your fruit and sugar mixture into the fabric-lined colander. Put this back in the refrigerator for at least an hour to drain. You can let it drain for longer with no ill effect – in fact this will result in an even thicker jam.
From this point on, you’ll be making two separate products: jam and fruit syrup.
- When you’re ready to make jam, scoop the fruit out of the fabric-lined colander and place it in a pot with lots of open area to help it cook down faster. (This gives more space for the liquid to evaporate.)
- The liquid that you caught in the other pot is the basis for your fruit syrup. You’ll have about 1-2 pints of liquid. Place that on the stove and bring it to a rolling boil. Add 1/4 cup of sugar and a tbsp of lemon juice per pint and reduce heat to a simmer. I like to add one big spoonful of jam to this to add a little texture to the syrup.
- Meanwhile, on another burner, bring your fruit and sugar mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently. After about an hour, the texture will have thickened. If you still have a great deal of liquid, you can use a fabric lined sieve to strain some more out. (You can add this liquid to the syrup.)
- Fill sanitized jars with your products (syrup or jam). Process in a water bath canner, according to the type of fruit you are canning and making adjustments for your altitude. (Refer to the chart for processing times.)
Universal Jam with Boxed Pectin
If you wish to use boxed pectin to make your jam, here are the basic instructions for that process,
- Prep your fruit by washing it and cutting it up if necessary.
- Smush your fruit. You can do this with a potato masher, food processor, blender, or food mill. For some fruits I like to puree them and have a smoother jam and for others I like chunkier jam – it’s up to personal preference.
- In a small bowl, use a fork to mix ¼ cup of the sugar with one packet of pectin.
- In a saucepan, stir the fruit, lemon juice, and pectin together well.
- Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently.
- Once it is boiling, stir in the sugar and return to a boil for one minute.
- This is important:
Jam Making Rule of Law:
Always test your jam!!!!
You do this by keeping a spoon in the freezer – to test, drip a bit of the hot jam into the spoon to allow it to quick-cool – the consistency it reaches is the consistency your finished product will be.
At this point, I nearly always end up adding another 1/4 – 1/2 package of pectin – I use the cheaper pectin to “top it up” – return to a simmer for a couple of minutes and test again.
Omitting this step may result in a very tasty ice cream topping or waffle syrup, but not jam!
- Ladle the jam carefully into your awaiting sanitized jars, wipe the rim, and cap your jars with snap lids and rings.
- Process in a hot water bath canner, according to the ingredients chart and adjusting for altitude.
Universal Jam Making Chart
|Apricot||Peel, slice in half to pit||5 minutes|
|Blackberry||optional step: mill to remove seeds||10 minutes|
|Blueberry||optional step: puree||7 minutes|
|Cherry||Pit with a cherry pitter, chop before cooking||10 minutes|
|Grape||Mill to remove seeds||10 minutes|
|Huckleberry||Check for stems||10 minutes|
|Peach||Peel, slice in half to remove pits||10 minutes|
|Plum||Slice in half to remove pits||5 minutes|
|Raspberry||Crush with a potato masher||10 minutes|
|Strawberry||Remove cores, mash with a potato masher||10 minutes|
Here are the products used to make jam:
Recipe: The Organic Canner