The Only Guide You Need For Making the Best Homemade Jam

The Only Guide You Need For Making the Best Homemade Jam

Your quick guide to homemade jam

H

Hannah Henrici

Food Editor at Kitchen Stories

Last fall, I found myself drawn to the countryside. After spending most of the pandemic lockdown in the city, I longed for long walks in the woods, homegrown food, and rural tranquility. That's how I found myself volunteering for a few months on an organic farm in the French Pyrenees.

The farm grew apples, raspberries, pears, figs, sea buckthorn, watermelons, and more. By autumn, most of the fruits had been harvested and on the shelves of the pantry the farmer I’d been staying with had at least as many jam varieties as fruit varieties. In order to be able to sell and preserve the quantities of fruit and vegetables during the cold months, we processed the harvest into jams and chutneys. In addition to common classics such as raspberry jam, there were also more wild flavor combinations, for example pumpkin-ginger, watermelon-lemon, and even kiwi jam.

The world of jam

While the most popular types of jam are often made from just one type of fruit, strawberry jam being one of the unbeaten classics, but less conventional flavors have also become very popular recently. Our chef Christian decided to bring together strawberries and matcha for his latest jam recipe.

Special strawberry jam with matcha

Special strawberry jam with matcha
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You can of course adapt his recipe to your own preferences and try vanilla, chia, or rhubarb instead of matcha in combination with the strawberry. The second exciting jam to put on your list? Christian’s rhubarb coconut milk jam which may sound unusual at first, but I'm sure it will surprise many a critic. The tart rhubarb and the milky coconut complement each other perfectly.

Not your average rhubarb jam

Not your average rhubarb jam
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You don't need your own garden to make your own jams. Even with ingredients from the farmer's market or supermarket, preserving is fun. The most important thing is to work with seasonal products. Plus, if you package up your jams and realize you have too much, they make ideal gifts for anytime! 

Spicing up your homemade jam

First things first, you can use all kinds of fruit for making jam, but you can also use vegetables, like onions, tomatoes (our favorite fruit slash vegetable) or pumpkin. I recommend you to make only one or two different kinds in a single jam at first. You can also experiment with spices and other flavorings. You can use anything from vanilla, lavender, pepper, cinnamon, and chili flakes to mint, ginger, lemon, and even jalapenos, but of course there's no limit to what you can do with liquid flavorings, too. Like Christian, add some coconut milk to your jam, rose or orange blossom water, or try it with a shot of rum or whiskey. 

Choose the right sugar

Depending on the type of fruit, you can boil down the fruit with or without preserving sugar and turn it into jam. The decisive factor is the pectin content of the fruit you’re using, which can vary considerably. For fruits with a high pectin content (apples, citrus, blueberries, gooseberries, and currants), it’s not necessary to use preserving sugar or other gelling agents to achieve the thick, jammy consistency. With these fruits, you can also use granulated sugar with a bit of lemon juice which not only adds a fresh touch in terms of flavor, but also enhances the texture of the final jam. 

For fruits that don't contain as much pectin, you'll need jam sugar to get the right consistency. Jam sugar is a mixture of granulated sugar and pectin. There are some rumors out there that jam sugar is made with gelatin, but it’s typically made with pure pectin extracted from apples or lemons, so it’s vegan friendly. 

To properly gauge the ratio of jam sugar to fruit, you should follow the package directions. First, there is jam sugar in a 1:1 ratio, where you use as much fruit as sugar. Then there are 2:1 or 3:1 ratios, where the amount of sugar is less than the amount of fruit. This makes the fruit flavor of the jam more pronounced, and less sweet overall. 

Our step-by-step homemade jam recipe

Once you've decided on a jam variety and the sugar-to-fruit ratio, you're ready to go. Get your ingredients and grab a cutting board, knife, saucepan, slotted spoon, and sterilized jars. 

How to sterilize jars

How to sterilize jars

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Step 1: Cut the washed fruit into small pieces. Put fruits and jam sugar in the saucepan, mix everything, and let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes, until the fruits releases some juice.

Step 2: Set the saucepan over medium heat and let cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved and everything comes to a boil. This allows the fruit and sugar to combine. Depending on the fruit and the quantity, the cooking time may vary. 

Step 3: To test whether the jam is ready, you can do a test. Put a plate in the freezer for a few minutes. Then put a small spoonful of the still hot jam on the cooled plate. If the jam thickens after a short time, you can assume that the rest of the mixture will be firm enough after cooling and the jammy consistency you want will be achieved.

Step 4: When the jam has passed the test, skim off any foam with a slotted spoon. Pour the still-hot jam into the sterilized jars and let cool.

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Alternatives to jam sugar

Agar agar is another vegetable gelling agent, which is extracted from seaweed and can help with the texture while not adding more sweetness to your homemade jams. For 750 millilieters you only need 1 tsp of agar agar, but it’s important to add it when the other ingredients are simmering (just read the directions on your package of agar agar before use).  

If you prefer not to cook your fruit at all, there are also ingredients that can help set your jam. Chia seeds can be soaked in pureed fruit to help form a jelly-like mass. Guar gum or locust bean gum is not too well known or used in home kitchens, but can also be used for this purpose. Here, the fruit should first be pureed in a blender, then you can add the “gum” and puree everything again for a few minutes. Depending on the consistency you want, add more or less gum. 

Agar agar, chia, guar gum, and locust bean gum do not contain natural sweeteners. If you want to add some, you can either use cane sugar or healthier options like maple syrup, agave, coconut blossom sugar, date syrup, or something similar.

Recipes to make use of your homemade jams

Swirled jam pancake bake
Scones with blackcurrant jam
Raggmunk (Swedish potato pancakes with jam)
Blackberry-bay leaf jammy dodger cookies
3-ingredient brioche ice cream sandwich
Linzer cookies
DIY pop tarts, 3 ways
Jam thumbprints
Swiss roll cake pops
Babka with Orange Peel Jam
Cranberry pistachio biscotti with jam

Published on May 24, 2022

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