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21 November 2013 @ 10:55 am
Guest Post: On the Making of Jam  

All y’all know I like to make jams and things and although I can’t find a post talking about it, I did an experiment with my last batch of peach jam where I used about 30% less sugar because the stuff I’d made was So Sweet and So Stiff and because it had been years and years since I’d made jam and I’d *thought* that looked like an *awful* lot of sugar and the reduced sugar version turned out beautifully and not too sweet although I thought I could cut another half cup of sugar anyway


all of that got me and Mom talking about the sugar in jams and finding old recipes and now I have a guest blog post from her on her most recent Adventures In Jam Making!

Now then. Here’s a fascinating bit of information.

Back in the Olden Days, my cohorts and I used to make a lot of jam. Seriously. We’d spend days in late summer picking Alaska wild blueberries, strawberries no bigger than your thumbnail, and raspberries from the Sekrit Patch near Stormy Lake, and later on, loads of lowbush cranberries. We’d pick wild currants for jelly. The latter two didn’t need pectin, but for the other berries we used commercial pectin.

In the last several years and more lately in the last one or two, the jams have begun to taste a lot more like sweet than like the fruits they’re made from. I began to suspect that Sure Jell and Certo had changed the proportions. In the spirit of investigation, I inquired of a friend of mine (who shall here remain nameless unless she wishes to comment because she may not want to own up to having pectin with a pull date of 1999 on her shelves) whether she had any old pectin, and if so, could she have a look at the proportion of fruit to sugar. I was specifically interested in blackberries and strawberries, as Farmer Tom grew both this past summer.

And somewhat to my horror, but not to my surprise, the amount of sugar from 1999 to 2012 increased by 36% for jams made with berries. The level in marmalade increased 20%. I don’t know about Other Fruit, but we can find out, I bet.

I have just made a batch of blackberry jam using the new pectin and the old proportions. You will all be very happy to know that it set beautifully and tastes more of blackberries than of sugar.

Another friend has a 1969 jam recipes sheet which she’s going to scan. I’m looking forward to seeing what proportions *those* have. Also, interestingly, although they swear up and down that your jam will be a disaster if you have too much liquid, the liquid pectin proportions for jam-to-sugar are identical to the powdered pectin proportions, suggesting that the level of liquid isn’t *that* critical.

(I realise that a startling number of my readers here not only are jam makers (and have slow cookers!) but are *hardcore*, and don’t use pectin at all, but I’m not that dedicated and thought this might be useful and/or interesting for the other pectin-users out there! :))

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

Herefoxherefox on November 21st, 2013 03:47 pm (UTC)
I really look forward to hearing the proportions for this! I cut down the sugar a lot in my recipes and I sometimes have problems with things setting but the most egregious of those have been when I've been making a jam with a fruit that doesn't have much pectin and I didn't have any on hand (this happens when someone gives you a huge bag of already overripe plums and you weren't planning on making jam THAT NIGHT.
cgbookcat1: giraffecgbookcat1 on November 21st, 2013 03:54 pm (UTC)
I started making jam 2 years ago because I have never liked the sweetness in the store-bought type. At first I planned to use pectin, but when I looked at the amount of sugar I backed away slowly, ran for the honey, and started using whatever amounts of honey and sugar tasted right. Only one batch has failed to set up. The jars come out of the water-bath canner looking and tasting delicious, but I suspect a health inspector would not approve of my smaller amounts of sugar. The changes in the pectin proportions may be due to more stringent government standards for what is "safe" for long-term storage.
joycemocha on November 21st, 2013 04:36 pm (UTC)
If you water bath, that should be sufficient for storage. You can also add more acid (lemon juice) for low-acid fruits like fig jam (the only major mold issues I had when making my own jams were with strawberries--particularly high-sugar varieties like we have in the Pacific Northwest--and figs). Fig jam got me started on water bathing instead of sealing with paraffin.
Brienze: food: anyone can cookbrienze on November 21st, 2013 04:04 pm (UTC)
I made peach jam last year when I was unexpectedly gifted with a bunch of peaches, but I was disappointed that 7 cups of sugar went into it, and haven't tried making jam again. I'll be interested to see the reduced sugar proportions.
kitmizkit on November 21st, 2013 04:07 pm (UTC)
It was indeed the 7 cups that appalled me so. I made my last batch hwith 5.5 and thought I coulda gone with 5 in the end. It set up perfectly.
Geek of Weird Shit: weldinggows on November 21st, 2013 04:27 pm (UTC)
I don't make jam, in part because I don't like mucking with pectin and part because the recommended amounts of sugar make my eyes cross.

I do make compote, without much sugar at all, and it cans up just fine. I would suspect the sugar increase having to do more with either the sugar industry or in keeping with our tendency for increased sweetness. I mean, they even put sugar in "healthy" bread.
joycemocha on November 21st, 2013 04:34 pm (UTC)
Interesting. I haven't made jam for twelve years, so now I'm going to go scrounging around to see if I have those old recipes for next year, when I anticipate having more time. I also have a artisanal preserving book, so I'm going to compare notes. Luckily I have a lot of older references I've inherited from my mother, so hopefully...
6_penny on November 21st, 2013 04:38 pm (UTC)
Low methodoxyl pectin (aka low methoxyl pectin or LM Pectin) is a good alternative. It is used for low sugar jelling. My father used it for years. It is a powder that is combined with a bit of a calcium/water solution to set. minimizes the use of sugar.
If the jam is just a bit runny, I have noticed that with a few months on the shelf it actually sets up in the jar. Of course you can also call it fruit syrup and use on waffles, pancakes and various desserts!
Pomona's Universal pectin is the one that I have used, but I think that there are several brands.

Edited at 2013-11-21 04:41 pm (UTC)
cainle_bean on November 21st, 2013 04:52 pm (UTC)
I have cook books that date back to the 40's at least. I wonder what they say about jams and jellies.

Hmmm now I have to check that out.

I know the ones I made this past year were too sweet for me.
desperance: lukedesperance on November 21st, 2013 07:03 pm (UTC)
It never occurs to me to use pectin; not sure if that makes me hardcore or just missing-a-trick. Where I know I'm purely ignorant, though, is in re your mention of slow cookers. I have a slow cooker, but again: it's never occurred to me to use it for jam-making. Am I missing a trick?
kitmizkit on November 21st, 2013 07:09 pm (UTC)
No, no, the slow cookers are totally unrelated to the jam. It's just I mentioned a while ago that I had a slow cooker and, like everybody who had one, never used it, only then about 3409870 people said "I use mine all the time!" So they're, er, more hardcore than I am. Or something. :)

Look, it made sense in my head at the time. :)
desperancedesperance on November 21st, 2013 07:19 pm (UTC)
I love how things make sense in other people's heads. *hugs you, just 'cos you have a head that isn't mine*

Also, I have a slow cooker. Of course I do: we had a wedding. It's a fine slow cooker, and, um. Apparently I mostly prefer to cook things the old-fashioned way, where I can stir them and feel how things are going and adjust the heat and so forth. But it's great for making stocks overnight; I do that almost weekly. And I keep expecting to find other things it's really good for. I'm very open-minded that way. (One could probably cook haggis in it, if haggis were legal provender in the US [tragically, proper haggis contains items not recognised as foodstuffs; I believe there are haggis-smugglers working across the Canadian border, and I want to meet one]; I know one can cook Christmas pudding in it, for I have done so...)
kitmizkit on November 22nd, 2013 10:15 am (UTC)
You like to cook, whereas I cook because if I wait for Ted to get home to cook so we can eat we would never eat. A slow cooker is, therefore, of use to me, as long as I remember to use it. :)

*hugs you too*!
rhienellethrhienelleth on November 21st, 2013 08:23 pm (UTC)
Are you going to perhaps post the scanned 1969 sheet? I have always added less sugar than the pectin box states, but I would be really interested in what the ratio used to be.
coraline73 on November 21st, 2013 10:21 pm (UTC)
I never thought of making jam without added pectin being 'hardcore'. Although the one I make most often are bramble jelly and elderberry jelly, and in both cases I out some apple in, which helps it set.

My strawberry jam didn't set despite my having used jam sugar 9which they add pectin to)

I don't own a slow cooker.
grassrosegrassrose on November 23rd, 2013 04:19 am (UTC)
I'm looking at a cookbook put together by "the Ladies of the First Congregational Church of Woodbridge, New Jersey", copyright 1903. Most of the jelly and jam recipes have no pectin or gelatin ("gelatine") at all, but do use what I consider to be a lot of sugar. I'm seeing a pound of sugar per pint of liquid in one recipe, 8 pounds of chopped fruit (pears) to six pounds of sugar in another.

I'm not a jam maker - is this a lot of sugar?