I started making jams when I was very young, using fruit from our farm. I started with recipes from my mother. I would cook the jam for hours, holding the spoon on one hand and a huge sugar thermometer on the other. By the time I had peach, raspberry, blackberry, fig and all the rest done (2 weeks later and sugar burns all over my arms and hands), we opened a jar of each to try them.
As I was young, inexperienced in all things about food and had an ego to care for, I thought they were good. Above all, I accepted the round of applause from my family. But the truth is, all the jams tasted the same – caramel. This was due to the long boiling process that killed all the flavour of the fruit and caramelised the sugars.
As I matured, I started to read and learn from French Chefs. I was, and still am, never satisfied. I was only 17 when I first bought a serious cookery book for myself. Its author is renowned Chef Lenôtre.
Reading his recipes and explanations, my jam making method changed completely and the taste changed dramatically. Over the years, i read other recipes that I tried and tweaked to suit my taste. I think I now have a master recipe for jams with a full flavour of the fruit.
Still, I had an issue with mould in some of the jams. It was at that time that I found store purchased Pectin in Paris. I would lug packets by the dozen with me for my jams.
Today I make jams maybe every 15 days, in small quantity, using both fresh and frozen fruit. Again here, I took advice of Mâitre Lenôtre - Jam can ONLY be made in small quantity, meaning no more then 3.3 pounds (1.5 kgs) of fruit at a time. The jam won't "set" because prolonged exposure to heat diminishes the thickening properties of pectin.
One last issue – Sterilizing or not sterilizing?! I take Mâitre Lenôtre’s advice and turn the jam pots upside down to sterilize the air in the pot. And, I must say, that I have pot’s of peach and blackberry jam (fruits that have no pectin in them and mould very easily) that date back to 2007, absolutely pristine. But I understand the need for sterilizing, if someone wants to be absolutely reassured that their jam has no mould at all. Your call.
This recipe for raspberry jam is the base to all my jams – it’s the result of almost 40 years of jam making. I only make some minor sugar adjustments to jams with very sweet fruits like fig and melon.
PS. If you want some ideas for labels for offering your jams, check the links I left at the bottom of the page.
—Maria Teresa Jorge
- Serves a few jars
medium lemon – juice (1 medium lemon)
"No Sugar Needed" Pectin
- What to do ahead: Sterilize jars and lids. Prepare some old newspaper to put under your jars when filing them. Read the instructions of the Pectin and check you have enough for your jam.
- Weigh the sugar. Put half the sugar in a non-reactive pot.
- Rinse the raspberries very quickly and put on kitchen paper towel to drain for 1 minute. Add the raspberries to the pot and cover with the remaining sugar. Stir to coat the raspberries with sugar and cover with a clean cloth. Let stand at room temperature for 8 hours, stirring occasionally, so the sugar dissolves completely before cooking. You will have a lot of syrup, unlike the mix fruit + sugar and cook method.
- For no-seed jam: Pass the raspberries through a food mill fitted with a fine screen and weigh the raspberries after deseeded.
- Bring the raspberries and sugar to a low simmer and cook for 15minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. During this boiling stage, skim off the foam, using a big spoon.
- Check the directions of your No-Sugar Needed Pectin Packet and measure the pectin needed for the weight of raspberries. To this quantity add 25% more of Pectin (see Note 3) and dissolve all of this pectin in the lemon juice.
- Add the lemon juice / pectin to the pan and allow the berry-pectin mix to boil on medium heat for 1 minute.
- Fill sterilized jars immediately (it’s really important that the jam is still very hot) to 1/4 inch of tops, wipe clean the rims and close immediately with a sterilized tight fitting lid. Turn the jars up-side down for 20 minutes. Turn them back over and allow to cool.
- Clean jars, label them at least with the date and store in cool dark place.
- Note 1: Always make only one batch at a time. If you double or triple the recipe’s contents you often end up with a softer jam.
- Note 2: If you want, sterilize the jam in the jars. Place the filled jars in a water bath. Boil for 10 minutes after the water has returned to a boil. Remove the jars to cool on a cooling rack.
- Note 3: Pectin – About Pectin: I did some research on brands sold in the US. The one that is most similar to the one I use nowadays is Sure-Jell "No Sugar Needed" Pectin. Because I cut down on sugar, I prefer to add 25% more of pectin to the jam and be sure that it sets, rather than having a runnier jam and having to “remake” the jam.
- If you care to make some jam as a food gift, check these 2 labels from http://www.creaturecomfortsblog.com/, they are absolutely adorable: http://www.creaturecomfortsblog.com/home/2010/8/25/homemade-caramel-fudge-sauces-plus-free-printable-tags.html http://www.creaturecomfortsblog.com/home/2011/6/15/free-printable-summer-fruit-labels-gift-tags.html