Tuesday Techniques: How To Make Jam

July 7, 2008 | By | COMMENTS

IMG_1.JPG

Craig’s cousin Matt came to stay with us this past week and he and his friend (who also stayed with us) had a wild time. Out every night, hitting up the town, they’d wake up bleary-eyed every morning and ask me what Craig and I did the night before. “We, ummm, bought a keg and threw a block party,” I’d lie, ashamed of the truth: that I’d made dinner, we’d watched “The Wire” on DVD, and went to bed early.

And then any credibility I had as a vibrant young person went out the window when they came home one day to find me at the stove next to a pile of cherry pits.

‘What are you doing?” they asked, watching me sweat and stir.

“I’m making sour cherry jam,” I said.

They looked at one another and then back at me. “You’re making your own jam?” they asked, incredulously.

“Yes,” I said and suddenly felt my hair turn gray, my glasses slide down my nose, and my back hunch over. “Oh no!” I gasped. “Can it be? Do I have I.G.S.?”

I checked my symptoms online, consulted a web doctor, and my worst fears were confirmed: I’d caught the bug, and I wasn’t going to get better. Instant Grandma Syndrome. I was a hunched-over jam-maker, and “Golden Girls” reruns and early bird specials were to become my new way of life.

The blame SHOULD go to my far-flung Parisian friend with a spiffy new web design, David Lebovitz. When I came home from the farmer’s market with sour cherries (a prized fruit, one that Ruth Reichl and Mr. Lebovitz both urge their readers to purchase whenever possible) I decided I wanted to make sour cherry jam.

I went to a store on 7th Ave. and bought 8 jam jars (for this and future jam making). I also bought a cherry pitter to make my job easier and reader, believe me when I tell you: a cherry pitter is the greatest tool ever invented. Firstly, it does its job extremely well–your cherries will be pitted in no time. And secondly, it’s fun! It’s like a cherry pit gun. Do it the right way and those pits will go flying. Shoot your loved ones or your enemies or your cat. Ok, don’t shoot your cat.

Back here, I Googled “Sour Cherry Jam” and came to this post on David’s site. His technique for making jam is so awesome, so fool-proof it merits its own Tuesday Techniques post, and that’s what we’re doing today.

Here’s David’s process (and it applies to other fruit as you’ll soon see): Take your clean, pitted fruit, and put it in a pot with lemon zest and lemon juice from one lemon. Turn on the heat. Cook on medium heat until the fruit softens and gets wet and sloshy. Measure what’s there. Now, get out your calculator and multiply that amount by 3/4. Whatever number results, add that much sugar. Turn up the heat, stir, stir, stir, and let it foam up and once the foam subsides (a good 10 minutes or so) your jam should be set. To test, put a plate in the freezer when you start and at this point, drizzle some hot jam (careful!) on to the plate, put back in the freezer for a minute, and then test by pushing the jam with your finger. If it scrunches up, you’re done. If it’s still wet and sloshy, keep cooking. When set, pour into a jar, wipe off the lip, put on the lid and cool to room temperature. That’s it! You’ve got jam.

Now wasn’t that easy?

The only other tricky part is sterilizing the jars. But that’s easy too. After reading various techniques, here’s what I came up with: wash the jar and the lid with soap and water. Put in a pot or a Dutch Oven with hot water and bring to a boil. Let boil for 15 minutes, remove to towels with tongs and you’re done. Also easy!

IMG_3.JPG

So here’s how the Sour Cherry jam went down. Here are the sour cherries, fresh from the farmer’s market:

IMG_5.JPG

Here they are, washed and pitted and cooked in a pot for a few minutes:

IMG_6.JPG

Here they are in a measuring cup after releasing all their juices;

IMG_7.JPG

There were two cups of cherry slosh and that meant 1 1/2 cups of sugar. I added the sugar, turned up the heat, and stirred constantly with a rubber spatula until all the foam subsided.

IMG_8.JPG

I turned off the heat, tested the jam on the freezer plate, saw that it was set and patted myself on the back. I ladled the jam into the jar, put on the lid, and smiled at my accomplishment while Craig’s cousin prepped for another night on the town.

IMG_91.JPG

Then, on Saturday, I joined my friends Patty and Lauren for a fun jaunt to the Park Slope Farmer’s Market. There I found a rare supply of red currants at the bargain price of $10 for three cartons. I bought them up and here they are, beautiful in their bag:

IMG_88.JPG

I e-mailed David to ask if I could use the same process on the currants and he said, “yes.” My favorite jam book, Mes Confitures, said I’d need a food mill but David said pish-posh. “You can use a food mill, if you taste it afterwards and it’s too chunky” (I paraphrase) “but it’s not necessary.”

So, once again, I washed and strained the fruit:

IMG_40.JPG

I plucked all the currants off their stems (a long process, though a pleasant one) and placed them in a pot with lemon juice and some water (David’s instruction; about 1/2 a cup):

IMG_41.JPG

I cooked until sloshy, measured (this time there was more: about 4 cups), added the appropriate amount of sugar (using up all my sugar, actually), and cooked until the foam subsided:

IMG_42.JPG

Tested on a plate and it was done!

Oh, and the best part? Once it’s on the freezer plate you can taste it because it’s cooled down. And it tastes so, so, good. I stood there licking a plate as Craig’s cousin and his friend went out enjoying their youth.

But what’s youth next to a pot of jam? Sure, it’s fun to go out every now and then, but at the end of the night what do you have to show for it? Nothing, I tell you, except–maybe–a neon glow stick. With I.G.S. you stir some fruit and some sugar in a pot, and 6 months later you have jam to spread on your toast while you watch “Wheel of Fortune” and harass your grandchildren for not calling you. The choice is yours, reader: youthful exuberance or jam.

I choose jam. Now call your grandma!

Tags: , ,

Categories: Cooking, How-To, Recipes, Sides

  • Craig

    Did you process it in water after you put them in the jars, or are you storing it in the fridge?

  • http://www.amateurgourmet.com Adam

    Storing in the fridge. I guess that’s important!

  • http://www.davidlebovitz.com David

    Jam-making may be one qualified way to imagine that you’re almost ready to be put out to pasture.

    But when you start listening to show tunes, that’s when you really need to be concerned…

  • http://hande.wordpress.com/ Hande

    Adam, your jam will hold longer if you take smaller jars and full them up to the brim. Seal them, and while they cool down, a vacuum will be created and the lid will dent inwards. that brings the “plop” later when you unscrew the lid and is a sign that your jam is still good. That second jar on the first picture doesn’t have this and needs to be eaten soon! Smaller jars also bring with them that they once opened, they will be used up quicker. Because remember, after opening a jar (that has been filled as above explained) the clock starts ticking!

  • http://www.helengraves.co.uk Helen

    That jam look delisiously simple Adam – I have to say it though – those jars are fabulous!!

  • http://www.dinnersforayear.blogspot.com EAT!

    I just made a batch of quick stovetop strawberry jam to store in the frig. I forgot how much I enjoyed it. I have never tackled actually canning. It may be in my future

  • http://lifebeginsatsixty-five.blogspot.com/ sixty-five

    I think that if you’re only making a jar or two, and planning to use it up soon, and keeping it in the fridge, this is works fine. But for longer storage, or gift-giving, you are supposed to “process” the jars. That’s the part that seems complicated and always slows me down.

    Another option is to use little straight-sided jars and seal them with melted paraffin, which is actually pretty easy. THen you cover the tops with cute little rounds of paper. This will REALLY give you IGS!

  • Cary

    I’ve been making strawberry and blueberry jams, one jar at a time, in the microwave! I finally found a use for the thing, and no sweating! 2 cups chopped strawberries or whole blueberries, some lemon juice or orange juice (just a splash, and about 3/4 cup sugar. In a large pyrex (I use an 8 cup measure with high sides) microwave on medium in 4 minute increments, stirring in between, until the plate test works. (Usually 4-5 times). Pour in jar and refrigerate. Great way to use fruit when you find a deal, and slightly underripe is actually good for the thickening. Keep an eye on it though, because it will boil over. Sorry for the long comment….

  • Craig

    Hande–I don’t think it matters because he didn’t process these for storage outside of the fridge.

    This is what a prefer to do anyway–make a small batch and keep it in the fridge–I always worry otherwise that I didn’t do something right in the processing, etc.

  • http://www.thecleverchef.net devlyn

    I made strawberry jam (which turned out good, but a little funky, likely due to the inclusion of powdered pectin) and sour cherry jam this weekend. The sour cherry jam turned out incredible – I used David’s “recipe”, as well. Can I ask how much your sour cherries were? I paid $8.75 for a quart of cherries, which made just over a pint of jam, so the price was on par with the more expensive artisan jams, not counting labor.

  • http://www.gastronomicguesswork.com kindageeky

    ok, I hate you a little … white truffles are so amazing if Alain Ducasse threw some between two pieces of cardboard I’d probably still eat it

  • http://www.gastronomicguesswork.com kindageeky

    ok, I hate you a little … white truffles are so amazing if Alain Ducasse threw some between two pieces of cardboard I’d probably still eat it

  • http://www.gastronomicguesswork.com kindageeky

    ok, I hate you a little … white truffles are so amazing if Alain Ducasse threw some between two pieces of cardboard I’d probably still eat it

  • http://www.foodinmouth.com/ Danny

    Where did you get those jars? And how much are they?

  • Val

    AWESOME post. you make it sound so easy! I am now motivated. I am especially pleased by how easy the sterilizing sounds since that part has always scared me.

    Thank you!

  • http://www.missbhavens.com missbhavens

    Mmmm…sour cherries! Gad, that looks good! I’d just add sugar to taste while cooking the cherries, though, to save jam-sticky dishes and time.

    I went on a canning bender early this summer (first ever!) when my garden went lousy with rhubarb. Rhubarb barbecue sauce, rhubarb syrup (excellent as a beverage with vodka and mint, excellent went frozen into sorbet with an ice-cream maker), rhubarb-orange marmalade, rhubarb-strawberry jam and my favorite, rhubarb-strawberry-vanilla jam.

    I had so much fruit to work with I had to work in large batches which necessitated the whole water-bath processing thing. At first I was worried about screwing it up, but realized it’s pretty impossible to screw up.

    Hot fruit in boiled jars topped with hot lids placed in boiling water. Easy peasy!

  • http://www.missbhavens.com missbhavens

    Mmmm…sour cherries! Gad, that looks good! I’d just add sugar to taste while cooking the cherries, though, to save jam-sticky dishes and time.

    I went on a canning bender early this summer (first ever!) when my garden went lousy with rhubarb. Rhubarb barbecue sauce, rhubarb syrup (excellent as a beverage with vodka and mint, excellent went frozen into sorbet with an ice-cream maker), rhubarb-orange marmalade, rhubarb-strawberry jam and my favorite, rhubarb-strawberry-vanilla jam.

    I had so much fruit to work with I had to work in large batches which necessitated the whole water-bath processing thing. At first I was worried about screwing it up, but realized it’s pretty impossible to screw up.

    Hot fruit in boiled jars topped with hot lids placed in boiling water. Easy peasy!

  • http://thefoodmonsterblog.blogspot.com The Food Monster

    http://thefoodmonsterblog.blogspot.com

    I remember my dad making all kinds of different jams. Although, they always involved pectin, or some equivalent, and a pressure cooker to help seal them. I don’t see any here. A much simpler approach that I must try.

    Thanks for the techniques!

  • http://thefoodmonsterblog.blogspot.com The Food Monster

    http://thefoodmonsterblog.blogspot.com

    I remember my dad making all kinds of different jams. Although, they always involved pectin, or some equivalent, and a pressure cooker to help seal them. I don’t see any here. A much simpler approach that I must try.

    Thanks for the techniques!

  • http://thefoodmonsterblog.blogspot.com The Food Monster

    http://thefoodmonsterblog.blogspot.com

    I remember my dad making all kinds of different jams. Although, they always involved pectin, or some equivalent, and a pressure cooker to help seal them. I don’t see any here. A much simpler approach that I must try.

    Thanks for the techniques!

  • http://thefoodmonsterblog.blogspot.com The Food Monster

    http://thefoodmonsterblog.blogspot.com

    I remember my dad making all kinds of different jams. Although, they always involved pectin, or some equivalent, and a pressure cooker to help seal them. I don’t see any here. A much simpler approach that I must try.

    Thanks for the techniques!

  • http://spicyicecream.blogspot.com Lisa

    Just because I am petite, enjoy baking and often fall asleep on the lounge, it does not warrant my boyfriend calling me a Nanna (I’m only 20!) The jam looks wonderful, I will definitely have to try making jam one day soon.

  • http://www.cheftomcooks.com Chef Tom

    My grandmother used to make some amazing strawberry jam but I’ve never tried cherry. Sounds like its worth trying!

  • http://www.mzkitchen.com Madam Chow

    Great post – I have a batch of sour cherries that I may turn into jam. I, too, seem to be turning into grandma!

  • http://www.mzkitchen.com Madam Chow

    Great post – I have a batch of sour cherries that I may turn into jam. I, too, seem to be turning into grandma!

  • Tiffany

    I am remembering Joey on Friends, eating jam with a spoon. Your pictures make me want to dig in, myself.

  • Alison

    Hi Adam — I love my cherry pitter, too, but for a different reason. I use mine to pit olives — great for pizza, etc. Oh, and of course, martinis!

  • rooney

    First of all, processing your canned goods is NOT difficult and I havent killed anyone yet. if you have storage space, but a big canning pan (they’re cheap, come with a rack which makes it easy to load multiple bottles and lower them into and take out of the water) otherwise, use a pan that will be big enough to cover the filled bottles with water. Second, I highly recommend buying a gadget available wherever you see canning supplies that grips the bottle neck and makes taking bottle in and out a breeze. Third, an easy way to sterilize is throw your bottles and rings in the dishwasher for ten minutes or so. as I said, I havent killed anyone yet using this method. when you fill your bottles, leave a half inch at the top. tighten the rings over the lids tightly. do not tighten once you have processed them. boil the water and put the filled bottles in. process 15-20 minutes. if you’re putting up tomatoes, add some citrus (I just throw in wine) take the bottles out, put on a towel on the counter, and then wait for the gratifying ping! of the lids sealing. processing is by far the easiest part of canning.

  • Kristin

    Adam! Adam! I really want some sour cherry jam. Send me a little jar of it. PLEEEEASE? It sounds so good!

  • http://www.kimberlybelle.com Kimberly Belle

    I definitely empathize with your need for homemade delicious jam. I’m what you call a jam snob. From as early as I can remember my aunt has taken me berry picking and taught me to make her own zesty blueberry jam with lemon rind and strawberry-rhubarb preserves. Last month I returned the favor up in Buffalo and took my cousins strawberry picking. We made a luscious strawberry sauce to pour over ice cream sundaes and even used it to flavor our own yogurt. Safe to say, my lips are virgin to store bought jam. Definitely worth the sacrifice.

  • Lizzy

    Hi Adam–I tried this recipe with sour cheries, and, even after almost 20 minutes of boiling, the foam never did subside… It was getting thick in the pan, so I did the freezer test, and I think I probably overcooked it. It sort of “pulls”, closer to a caramel texture than a spooney-globby jam. Wonder what went wrong. I started with 2 pints of cherries, and have maybe two cups of jam. Anyway, it tastes good, so maybe once it cools it will still be usable. Thanks for sharing!

    Lizzy

  • http://www.greeneatsblog.com Matt

    Great post Adam! Literally the day after I read this post I was at my local farmer’s market and found some red currants – it was fate! I combined those with some fresh blackberries that grow wild behind my house, and the results were delicious! The whole process was pretty easy, and I will definitely be making more jams in the future! Here are my results: Red Currant & Blackberry Jam

  • Kris

    From one grandma to another: this looks fantastic, and has encouraged me to sterilize, etc., my way to jam. We’ll be laughing in January and February when we spread a little summer lovin’ on our toast.

  • http://www.gastronomersguide.com Joseph

    Which farmers’ market did you buy the sour cherries at?

  • Coonass Cook

    I just finnished making some strawberry and blueberry jam and the results were awsome in fact Im dropping crumbs from some blueberry smeared toast on the key board as I type this…..Great post.

  • http://www.mashedpotatoesandmerlot.blogspot.com Kristin Murdock

    I love making jam! We did this for Christmas gifts this year, as we were out of money. Bell actually has a wonderful canning/jarring set they sell for a fairly reasonable price. If anyone is in the San Diego area, Great News in PB has a lot of these great jars and other necessities for jams!!

    Thanks for sharing, Adam. OH and I saw you in a commercial on Food Network the other day and yelled “I know him!”

  • Suzan Kar

    Thanks for the great post,I gave this method a try and it worked perfectly,first time ever for me.My strawberry was good but my yellow plum was incredible, thanks again.

  • Josa Slaughter

    I didn’t think anyone made jam like this anymore!! It’s GREAT!!! I have been making and commercially selling jam for quite a number of years. I pick almost all of my own fruit where ever I can find it…or, people call me up to come pick from their harvest. Have you ever tasted pectin? HORRIBLE! Instead of the plate and the freezer, I let the jam sheet off of a wooden spoon to test it. But, I have the minutes down pat for almost everything I make. I make about 60 different kinds of jams, jellies, etc. It’s just so much FUN!!!

  • Tony

    If you are making jam from peaches, do you remove the skin before cooking?

    Thanks

    interesting

  • reader

    Need more files from Megaupload? Find “more” at http://megaupload.name/