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Ripe With Benefits

Creating Jams and Jellies With Fresh Fruit

Natalie Hollingshead | Photos by Mary Harper Jul 9, 2018

Sampling fresh berries from a bush or taking a bite of a farm-fresh peach while the sweet juices drip down your hands is a summer rite of passage. The bounty of the season is gone too quickly, so why not bottle that incredible flavor for the future by making your own jams and jellies?

It’s not as intimidating as it may sound. If you can follow directions you can create jams, jellies, marmalades, preserves and fruit butters using your favorite flavor palette. There are no-cook versions that keep in the refrigerator or freezer and make putting up your own jam even easier.

Fresh and Healthier

Making your own fruit spread has its advantages. For one, you can control the ingredients and added sugars.

“If you’re health conscious, there are definitely ways to reduce the sugar in your recipe,” says Melanie Jewkes, extension associate professor for Utah State University in Salt Lake County. And of course, it will be fresher than what you pull off a shelf.

Another major benefit to making your own jams and jellies is that you can enjoy eating more than just the typical grape, strawberry and apricot selections at the grocery store. Plum jam, apple butter, peach jam with sriracha, apricot jalapeño jam, and strawberry lemon marmalade are all on the table when you do it yourself. Be creative about the fruit you combine. Just keep the amount of total fruit in a recipe the same.

“There are many varieties of fruit spreads and different ways to cook and store,” Jewkes says. Experiment to discover what you like best.

Getting Sticky

If you’ve never canned jam before, start with a reliable recipe before getting creative. Try the National Center for Home Food Preservation or Ball website. Gather your ingredients and make sure you’ve bought the right pectin for your recipe. There are traditional, reduced-sugar, no-sugar, and instant/no-cook varieties. Don’t adjust the amount of sugar in a recipe unless you’re using a low-sugar pectin. If you’re not sure what to use, check out the pectin calculator at FreshPreserving.com. Input the type of fruit you’re using, whether you want jam or jelly, the type of pectin you want to use and the calculator will tell you how much fruit, pectin and sugar to use.

Keep in mind that if you’re going to keep the jam on your shelf it needs to be processed in a boiling water canner, Jewkes says. Be sure to adjust processing times for altitude if necessary.

Plan to make jam in small batches. “That is definitely a best practice if you want a recipe to set up and gel appropriately,” Jewkes says. “The truth is, if it doesn’t set up in the end, it’s not a safety problem. It’s that you now have pancake syrup instead of jam for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”

Peach Jam With Sriracha

Makes about 3 (8-ounce) half pints

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds peaches
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup sriracha
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions:

Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Fill a large bowl two-thirds of the way up with cold water. Blanch peaches in the boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then immediately transfer to ice water. Cool to the touch, slip off the skins and halve and remove pits. Using a potato masher, smash peaches into a pulp. Stir in the sugar and let sit until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Scrape smashed fruit into a large skillet, add lemon juice and cook over medium-high heat, stirring regularly until the fruit boils and looks thick, 10-12 minutes. For the last few minutes of cooking, stir in sriracha. Remove jam from the heat and ladle into prepared jars, leaving 1/2-inch of headspace. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and bands. Place jars in boiling water canner. Process jars for 10 minutes, adding 10 minutes if you live above 6,000 feet. Turn off heat. Remove lid and let jars stand 5 minutes. Remove the jars from the water bath and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. 

Source: Ball Canning Company

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart ripe strawberries
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 box SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin

Directions:

Mash strawberries. Using a glass measuring cup, measure exactly 2 cups mashed strawberries into a large bowl. Stir in sugar. Let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix water and pectin in saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling and stirring for 1 minute. Stir pectin mixture into fruit mixture. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved, about 3 minutes. Pour into small plastic containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace; cover with lids. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours. Refrigerate up to 3 weeks, or freeze up to 1 year and thaw in refrigerator.

Source: Kraft.com (owners of SURE-JELL)

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