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! :))