Last night I made jam for the first time– strawberry ginger jam! I used strawberries that I hand picked from a farm on Long Island and fresh ginger.
I’m hoping to use up all of the jam in the next week or two, so I didn’t go through the canning process. I used a basic recipe for strawberry jam and then added a few tablespoons of grated fresh ginger (during the boiling step) to the mix. The ginger gives the jam a nice kick.
If you’d like to know the basic science behind preserving fruits, check out this How-to. I’ve selected a few sections from the instructional paper that I found particularly informative.
- Fruit Fruit gives jams and jellies their characteristic flavor and furnishes at least part of the pectin and acid required for successful gels. Flavorful fruits are best for jellied products, because the fruit flavor is diluted by large proportions of sugar.
- Sweeteners Sugar helps gel formation, serves as a preserving agent, contributes to the flavor of the jellied product, and has a firming effect on fruit.
- Pectin Jelly or jam made with added pectin requires less cooking, provides a larger yield and has more natural fruit flavor. Using added pectin also reduces the need to test for doneness.
- Acid Acid provides flavor and assists gel formation. Acid content varies among fruits and is higher in underripe fruits. Lemon juice and citric acid are commonly added to low-acid fruits. Some commercial fruit pectins contain acid.
TESTS FOR DONENESS
The trick to making jelly without added pectin is knowing when it is thick enough. Here are two simple tests to check for doneness.
- Spoon or sheet test. Dip a cool metal spoon in the boil- ing jelly mixture. Raise the spoon one foot above the kettle out of the steam and turn the spoon so the syrup runs off the side. If the syrup forms two drops that flow together and fall off the spoon as a sheet, the jelly is done.
- Refrigerator test. Remove jelly mixture from the heat during this test. Pour a small amount of boiling jelly on a cold plate, and place in the freezer for a few minutes. If the mixture gels, it should be done.