Any-Fruit Jam

Sweetness defines jams—and sometimes overpowers them. To my mind, a jam that leaves a lingering coat of sugar on your tongue misses the point: savor the fruits of summer. Making fruit-forward jam is simple once you understand a bit of the science behind it.

Fruit needs three things to set, or thicken, a spreadable consistency: acid, sugar, and pectin. Think of the molecular interactions in fruit like a high-school romance: Pectin molecules are attracted to water, but water is attracted to sugar. If water and sugar “hook up,” the pectin molecules will bond—with a little encouragement from their best friend, acid—and the jam will thicken.

The traditional method of encouraging this interaction is to throw enough sugar into the batch to distract all the water molecules. But more sugar is not the only option. An acidic pectin, like one based on citrus fruits, is an effective matchmaker for pectin molecules. Another method to encourage pectin couplings is to reduce the pool of available water molecules.
Learn to make Any-Fruit Jam without Added Pectin and Any-Fruit Jam with Added Pectin

Apples

Applesauce is among my earliest canning memories, in the kitchen and on the tongue. My dad grew several varieties of apples, and every year my mom would puree the fruit into dozens of quarts of applesauce. I recall pushing down on softened apples with a wooden mallet while my mother cranked away on the handle of the Victorio food strainer. I called it the “Victoria strainer” and clung to the idea that the British queen once used a similar device.

But my favorite applesauce was made by my grandmother. Grandma Tiny chopped apples by hand for small batches she stored in her freezer. Her “chunky applesauce” outshined all others. Mom’s applesauce did have one advantage: we could pour it onto dehydrator trays and dry it into fruit leather for school lunches. Between the two versions, I was spoiled to all other applesauce and have never been able to stomach commercial forms.
Learn to make Grandma Tiny’s Chunky Applesauce and Auntie Julie’s Fruit Leather

Botulism and Canning Safely

When I mention this blog, it rarely takes noncanners long to reveal they are afraid of making their family sick and to ask for the secret to canning safely. Their fear is of the big, scary B word: botulism. But what strikes me is their belief that they need to be let in on a secret to avoid it.

Honestly, there is no secret to safe canning. Everything you need to know is in every decent book and on every decent website that covers the topic. Canning is a process, but it’s not a mysterious one: If you can follow directions, you can get it right. Or, in the words of Kevin West, author of the fabulously informative Saving the Season, “If you can safely prepare chicken, a potential vector for food-borne pathogens such as salmonella, then you can handle home canning.”

Unfortunately, botulism has become a boogeyman, the arch villain of a cautionary tale who peers over the rim of a boiling water bath at many home canners. It doesn’t have to be that way. Read more about botulism and canning safely

Raspberries

Raspberries are probably my favorite fruit; as a kid, I used to walk barefoot in PJs to the berry patch and pick them straight onto my bowl of Cheerios. Strawberries may be a close second. After everyone from my 4-year-old nephew to newlywed friends told me how they gobbled up Chamomile-Scented Strawberry Syrup, which I made using Liana Krissoff’s Canning for a New Generation, I was prepared to put up an even larger batch the next year—only to have the strawberry patch fall short. But raspberries came in with a bumper crop, so I decided to attempt an adaptation. Then while I was prowling online, I found Carey Nershi’s fabulous cocktails at Reclaiming Provincial and knew I needed to start in the oven. The idea of roasting delicate raspberries may seem odd, but that step adds another level of flavor that’s irresistible in syrup, jam, or salad dressing. Learn to make Roasted Raspberry Syrup and Apricot–Raspberry–Mint Jam