Saturday, July 25, 2009


I've never made jam. There's a lot of things I've never done, lots of foods I've never made, lots of techniques I've never tried. Making jam happens to be one of them.

This weekend, I made jam. It's always been something I wanted to do, and what sparked this jam making experiment? A day of fruit picking in nearby Brentwood. What's a girl to do with 20lbs of peaches? That's right. Make jam. (Well, and ice cream, and pies, and whatever else I can think of!)

As I started researching jam, I realized off the bat, there was a lot I didn't know. First, there is the science behind jams.

Pectin. What the heck is pectin? It's a natural element found in fruits (mainly citrus fruits), and often used as a gelling agent. And apparently, at the height of stone fruit and berry season, stores sell out of pectin. Opps. Should have planned ahead. Two stores later, we finally had success.

Then there's the learning how to get the right consistency. And really, this part is going to take practice. Anyone looking for a jam making apprentice? The perfect balance of acid, sugar and pectin make for the right consistency. This perfect ratio combined with the right cooking times result in good jam. And if even one little part is off? Bad jam. Or a delicious fruit syrup instead.

Canning technique. I really have never canned or preserved anything. This was a first. Aside from the jars, I didn't have exactly the proper recommended canning tools. But my deep stock pot and some tongs worked just fine. I was off and running.

What did I realize in this whole experience? To start, I had researched heavily online. And I don’t think I’ve ever embarked on another cooking project with having done most of my work online. I tend to be a cookbook gal, reading multiple recipes, and then kind of coming up with my own recipe. Not in this case. Not one cookbook was cracked open.

Second? Thank you Twitter! My online community of food friends (and food strangers) were all there for me. Chiming in about whether or not I had enough sugar or pectin. Urging me to give the jam some time and to let it sit and ‘gel’ before deciding I had made a big batch of peach syrup. It was therapeutic to get feedback and support—and in real time.

In the end? It all worked out and I had little jars of sweet peach jam to give away to friends. Success! What’s next? Strawberries? Fig jam? Jarring tomatoes maybe? Bring it on. I’m ready.

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