You can make jam out of pretty much anything: fruit (berries and stone fruit are ideal), chillies, garlic—the list is endless. And it’s all the better when you whip up a batch using seasonal produce. What’s great about winters in the subcontinent is that it plays homecoming to berries: strawberries, mulberries, raspberries and these berries specifically make for delicious jam. Hot on toast, atop creamy, thick yogurt and granola or swirled in a cocktail—the use of jams this festive season is abundant and we’re here today to tell you all the things you need to know to make fresh batch sans pectin so read on!
Pectin is a chemical extracted from fruit that helps make jam thicker and helps it to set better—basically making it more jammy. The advantages of pectin are that you don’t end up cooking the fruit (which you need to do in the absence of pectin in order to let the jam set) and thus over-processing the flavour, darkening the colour and minimising your quantity of the finished product. However, it’s always a bit of a bummer when you have to add something from a box to fresh, beautiful produce, is it not? So here’s the charmer: a small batch of jam, automatically requires less cooking time. We’re talking about less than 10 minutes! Which means your flavour is left intact, the bright fruity flavour is coming through and you’ve got that wonderful sticky, jammy texture, which is really the essence of a good pot of jam—without having to use the chemical. So the only idea you need to ditch, is that of cooking in bulk, and you’re golden.
Now the thing to remember before getting your pots out is that each fruit varies. Some are sweeter than others, while some are a tad more tart. So, start by tasting your fruit, because you might have to adjust the recipe accordingly (read: sugar to fruit ratio). You also want to pick fruits that are naturally rich in pectin, which is why you need a good balance between the under-ripe and ripe fruit, since under-ripe fruit contains more pectin and ripe fruit has higher levels of sugar and flavour. To release pectin—you need to mash up the sugar with the fruit.
Lemon is used in jam to add in an acidic balance. Squeeze in some lemon juice to your fruit and sugar mixture and once you’re done squeezing in the juice, toss the lemon in your cooking pot and cook alongside the jam. Take out the lemon once your jam is cooked and right before you transfer the yummy goodness into a jar. If you don’t have any lemon lying around, you can also use the peel of a green apple to balance out the acidity.
The sweet rule: Start off with a small amount—that is, ¼ cup of sugar to 2 ½ cups of fruit and then add in the lemon. Let the fruit boil for 5 minutes and then taste. If it’s way too tart, add in a bit more sugar to balance out the flavours—most probably you won’t have to do this.
You can also add in a pinch of salt to your mixture—you don’t have to do this, but salt has a way of tying the sweet, fruity and tart flavours together beautifully.
Here’s what you need to whip up your own batch:
Fruit of your choice enough to make 2 ½ cups once diced
¼ cup of sugar
A pinch of salt
Yep, that’s literally all the ingredients you need!
The equipment you’ll need:
2-3 metal teaspoons
Knife + cutting board
A heavy-bottomed pot
Masher or a large fork
Spatula or a wooden spoon
Clean half-pint jar with lid
Now here’s what you’ve got to do:
First off, pop the spoons in the freezer, cut your fruit, trash the pits and bruised bits and slice a wedge of lemon.
Next up, combine your fruit and sugar into a pot along with a pinch of salt. Squeeze in the lemon and drop the rind into the pot. Turn up the heat to medium level and start mashing the mixture (except the lemon, that’s got to come out later) until you’ve got a lovely chunky texture.
Bring the mixture up to a boil, while stirring frequently. When the bubbles become smaller and thicker (5-8 minutes), you can check to see whether or not the jam has set. To do this, remove a spoon from the freezer, and drizzle a couple of drops of jam onto the spoon. Wait for a few seconds and then run your finger across the spoon. If this leaves a distinct track in the spoon, yippee, your jam is set! If not, keep cooking and try back later.
At this time, also taste the cooled jam on the spoon. If the jam needs more sweetness, now is the time to add in some sugar—if it needs a touch more acidity, add in some more lemon. Stir in the ingredients into the pot and continue to cook until the jam is set.
Once the jam has reached the desired flavours and consistency, carefully spoon it into a jar and set it aside to cool. Label your jar with the ingredients and date and store in the refrigerator. It should be good for up to three weeks.
Simple, delicious and so much fun to make! Whip up a batch using your favourite seasonal fruit and let us know in the comments section below how your pot of yummy turned out.