Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Jams, Jellies, and Preserves...

In the Kitchen

It's jammin' season so I thought this might be a good time to say a few words about fruit preserves.  First, a word about pectin because if you don't have pectin you can't make some fruit preserves.  Pectin is a type of starch that occurs in the cell walls of fruits and vegetables to give them structure.  Some fruits, such as apples, naturally have more pectin than other fruits.  Commercial pectins are usually made from citrus rinds. When combined with sugar and acid (usually lemon juice), pectin is what makes jams and jellies develop a semisolid texture when they cool.  

Now, on to the preserves.  I think most people know the difference between a jelly and a jam.  Jelly is made from juice so it is totally smooth and often clear or opaque.  Jam is made from chopped up fruit so it has pieces of fruit in the spread.  Preserves is made from whole fruit or larger chunks of fruit.  Do you know about conserves and chutneys?  Here is a handy chart from Cookery Nation showing all different types of fruit preserves:

I kind of made up a fruit preserve that I call "jammy".  It is a cross between jelly and jam.  I make it with raspberries and blackberries.  I put the fruit through a sieve.  This helps to remove some of the seeds.  What comes through the sieve is like a thick paste and I use this to make the jammy.  So, it is not a liquid juice like what is used to make jelly and it is not chopped fruit like jam.  It is kind of in between so I call it jammy.  I have also seen other people just call it "jelly jam".

I like to stick to the basic jam and jelly recipes for items that I sell at the Farmers Market.  All items I sell at the Farmers Market have to be approved by the local Health District.  The low sugar jam recipes must be tested before you are allowed to sell them and the testing costs around $50 each!  Luckily, you just have to have it tested once.  They have to make sure the acidity is good so it will not get anyone sick.  Also, if you make anything "different" it must be tested.  I invented a Red Sunflower Jelly and it had to go through the testing process before I could sell it.  It is unique and a lot of people buy it for that reason.  You are not allowed to sell fruit butters because they are not considered safe because the mixture is so thick, it is hard to heat the jars sufficiently to get all contaminants killed.  Of course, you can make them for your own consumption...they just cannot be sold.  Just ask someone in the canning community about canning pumpkin and you are opening a big can of worms.  But, I digress...I have not really experimented much with conserves because once you start adding nuts, your input costs go way up.
Speaking of input costs...all the jams/jellies that I make are from fruit that we grow or forage for.  We have raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, plums, white and black currants, and apples growing on our farm.   In the past, I have foraged for dandelions, wild blackberries, huckleberries, elderberries, grapes, plums, pears, and I am sure there are other things that I am forgetting.  This year, we had an abundance of cantaloupe so I decided to make a Cantaloupe Basil Jam   It turned out great!  If we have extra cantaloupes in the future, I will make this again but I am not planning on planting extra cantaloupe just for this reason.  Just to be clear, I did not invent this recipe...it was in one of my preserve making books.
Another new jelly I made this year is a Crabapple Hot Pepper Jelly.  The peppers did not grow so well this year so I only had enough to make one batch but I think that will be good enough.  To juice the crabapples, I used my new steamer juicer.  I love that thing!  In this video I am juicing white currants...
I know that when most people think of preserves, they probably think of bread.  BUT, jams, jellies and other preserves do not need to just be used on toast and bagels. Consider using them in other creative ways:

Filling or topping for crepes, pancakes, and waffles

Topping for cakes and tartes

Top muffin batter with a dollop before baking

Create a glaze for pork or chicken

Add to homemade salad dressing (like a raspberry walnut dressing)

Add to yogurt (I like to buy plain yogurt and add fruit preserves for flavor)

Add to oatmeal

Add to BBQ sauce

Add to milkshakes, smoothies or tea

Use in cookie recipes (thumbprint cookies)

Top custard and ice cream

I only have a few more jams/jellies that I want to make for the rest of this year.  I want to try a new Apple Mint Jelly recipe that came with the steamer juicer.  Also, one of my ultimate favorite preserves is Pear Preserves and I am looking forward to making some of that as soon as the pears are ripe!  Our apples are not doing so well this year.  If I get enough, I will probably make some Apple Pie Jam too which is something I have made in the past.

One last note, something that I have not experimented with is making Lemon Curd.  Lemon Curd involves 2 of my favorite things...eggs and preserves!  I will be honest, I never even really heard of Lemon Curd until I started working in a French Bistro when the boys were toddlers.  We would sometimes have a "tea" party and lemon curd was served with the pastries.  Another fun item preserve to experiment with!

What is your favorite fruit preserves?  How do you like to eat your preserves?


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