Now that jam season has descended upon us, my weekends are devoted to foraging for fruits and turning them into jam. The glass jars I’ve been assiduously saving the whole year are now all almost all filled with jam.
So how do you make jam? In Germany it’s quite easy, since stores stock up on jam sugar, or sugar already mixed with pectin, a jelling agent that can be extracted from the seeds of fruits like apples and pears. I’ve seriously considered extracting my own pectin from apples, then I decided the last minute that it means I’m certifiably nuts.
So, there are three different kinds of jam sugars in Germany; 1:1, 2:1, and 3:1. That means that 1 part fruit to the whole bag of sugar, two parts fruit to the bag of sugar, and three parts fruit or juice to one part sugar. I always use 3:1 for making jelly, like elderberry jelly.
For strawberry jam, I always take 1:1, since they always give me the best results.
So take a kilo of strawberries. You can safely add about 100 grams more, since these berries will diminish considerably from here. Take a medium-sized to big stock pot, and proceed to remove the green tops, slice away brown portions, and quarter the strawberries then put them in the pot. Slicing away the brown or moldy portions of the strawberries improves the shelf life considerably.
Then I dump the whole bag of sugar into the pot. If I want to make chunky strawberry jam, I let the fruit steep in the sugar at least half an hour, stirring it every so often with a wooden spoon. If I’m making confiture, I puree it with a hand mixer. Meanwhile, I take some clean from the dishwasher pop-up, screw-top jars, leave them in the sink, and douse the whole lot with boiling water. You can then use a pair of tongs to drain them of water and leave them on the sink. I do not pat dry.
The slurry is put on the stove over medium high heat, stirring all the time until it comes to a rolling boil. Be careful, since this sugar mixture likes to splatter. This is the time it thickens to a jam, and continue to stir for three to five minutes. Then you can do the plate test.
I take a plate from the cupboard in my left hand and drop a droplet of jam from the wooden spoon on the plate, then tip the plate towards me. I’ve labeled the tests 1-6, so you could see the development of jam setting. Once the jam hardly moves after tipping, you are ready to can.
You don’t need to use a jam funnel, but it is very helpful when you have made chunky jam. I fill the still-warm glass to the brim, and use oven mitts to help me screw the tops on the jars, then tip them over in the sink so I don’t have a catastrophe on my counter. Let them stay upside-down until they cool. Once you turn them right-side up again, you will (hopefully) notice that the pop-up lid is depressed. Congratulations! You have created an air-tight seal! Jam for the whole year! They are a brilliant red, but the colors do tend to fade over time. Your jam is still good, don’t worry, even if it’s from 2011.
So, hopefully the rains start to subside, so I can begin cherry season!