How to Make Homemade Jam
October 19, 2020
Whether you spread it on toast, make sandwich cookies or bake up some jam tarts, nothing beats a fresh homemade jam. Make the most of the seasonal bounty and whip up a batch of jam using your favorite fruits. It's incredibly easy to do and is a fun cooking project for a free afternoon. The best part? Not only do they last ages, but homemade jams also make wonderful gifts come the holiday season. If you're ready to start your jam making journey, here's what you need to know.
Jam Making Tips
For the best results, keep these tips in mind when you're making jam. Fresh is best. Save your frozen fruit for other recipes.
Pectin is the not-so-secret ingredient to making your jam set. Different fruits have different levels of pectin. In general, you'll want to use slightly underripe fruit as they contain more pectin than their fully ripe counterparts. You can also mix lower pectin fruits (e.g. peaches, pears, and blueberries) with fruits with a higher pectin level (think citrus, apples, and blackberries), or use jam sugar, which contains pectin, when making your preserves. If you're wondering how much pectin different fruit jams need, check out this handy pectin calculator. Trust us, it'll make your life so much simpler.
Before you break out the pans, you'll want to sterilize your jam jars. Wash the jars and lids thoroughly, then bake them at 320°F for about 10 minutes. You can also pop the lids and jars in a large pot with boiling water for about 15 minutes. This option is better if your lids have rubber seals. Sterilize the jars while you're making the jam. They need to be hot when you're filling them.
How to Make Jam, Step-by-Step
- 4 cups berries (or other fruit)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 to 1 tsp lemon juice
To start off, wash your fruit. You'll need to make sure all of your fruit is about the same size. Cut as needed. Take your largest saucepan (or a preserving pan, if you have one) and add the fruit, sugar, and any other ingredients like spices, alcohol, vanilla, or tea.
Mash the fruit, working out any lumps – this will yield a smoother jam. Simmer the fruit over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Take your thermometer and read the temperature of the mix. To make jam, aim for 220°F. This temperature is where you’ll see your jam begin to set. Once it reaches 220°F, remove the saucepan from the heat and skim off any foam that might bubble up from the mixture. Be sure to wait until the jam has set before skimming off the scum.
Boil a large pot of water. Take your sterilized jars—they should still be hot, and fill them with the jam. Carefully secure the lids, then place the jars back into the boiling water for about 10 minutes. This will seal the jars. Remove your jam jars and let them cool overnight. Voila! You've whipped up a gorgeous batch of homemade jam you can enjoy or share with friends for the next year.
* Use about 1 tbsp of pectin for 4 cups of fruit. If you’re making a jam with lower pectin levels, you may need to add a little more.
A Few Tips For Making Homemade Jam
Cooking up a jam is fairly straightforward, but here are a few tips to keep in your back pocket.
- As we touched upon, different fruits contain varying levels of pectin. If you're using lower pectin fruits, you can add lemon (or other types of citrus) to the mix, which will help it set. Using jam sugar for low pectin fruits is always a safe bet.
- Smaller batches are easier to work with.
- Nothing beats a candy thermometer for jam making. Instant read options are the way to go.
- Store your homemade preserves in a cool, dark place.
Jam Flavor Ideas
There are so many fantastic combinations out there—you have plenty of room to get creative! Once you've mastered the basics, here are a few winning flavor combos to try.
- Fig and Earl Grey tea
- Apple blueberry
- Blackberry vanilla
- Strawberry and balsamic
- Mixed berry
- Bourbon and peach
- Plum and ginger
- Strawberry and basil
- Cranberry and orange
Play around with different mixtures and discover what you (and your friends) love best.
Written by Camille Berry for Knockaround.