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01 July 2010

What do you do in the Summertime?

Pretty much every summer that I can remember my mom has made jam and I helped. Sometimes we find a great deal on some fruit, so we buy a ton and make jam like crazy for a day or two. It's great. Last year my mom and I picked apricots from Lovemuffin's grandma's tree, and we made seventeen batches of apricot jam. It was pretty incredible. We're still eating it. Lovemuffin's cousin also made a couple of batches, she tried a recipe that didn't call for pectin, so it needed less sugar and then you boil it for a long time so it's more like very thick syrup, but quite tasty, because it is fruitier. This year the fruit I got wasn't free, but I got a good deal because I picked my own. A couple of ladies from church and myself went up to the Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville to pick berries and it was great fun. I ended up with 19 pounds of boysenberries and about 5 pounds of olallieberries. By the way, when you say "olallieberries," it sounds like "lalaberries," even though Wikipedia says you pronounce it "oh-la-leh." Olallieberries are some sort of hybrid, you'll have to look at the little chart. Too complicated. Anyway, they make a good jam and a good pie, but they are a little tart for eating fresh, not quite like blackberries or raspberries, or even boysenberries. Those boysenberries on the bushes were so big and pretty, I just had to keep picking them, and the two women I was with helped, and that's how I ended up with 19 pounds.
When I got home that night I made two batches of jam the regular way, with the pectin and the whole lot of sugar, and then darling Lovemuffin saw how much sugar it was and thought we should try something different. Which was weird. He's never been one to be concerned about his sugar intake. I started looking up recipes for pectin free jam, and in my vast research (read, about half an hour of web surfing) I decided that I would try a small batch using one part fruit, and one part sugar, and a little lemon. And it worked really well! It set up well, it's nice and fruity, not too sweet, and you can do a pretty big batch all at once instead of having to do a lot of small batches over and over again. Which is kind of nice, but it's also nice to have small batches to process in the hot water bath, so that you can fit all of the jars in at the same time.
Here's what I did for my larger batch that worked really well:

Less Sugar Boysenberry Jam
11 cups mashed boysenberries
1 lemon, zest and juice
11 cups sugar

Place mashed berries and lemon zest and juice in a large pot, and bring to a gentle boil. Add sugar slowly, stirring with a very long handled wooden spoon. Bring it back to a full boil and let boil for 10-20 minutes, or longer if you aren't at sea level. The texture of the bubbles will change. If that makes sense. I took some videos, but I'm having a hard time posting them, there are some pictures that might give you the right idea, and I'll try to describe it. The bubbles become more caramelly and persistant. When the sugared fruit starts boiling, it looks pretty much like water at a full boil, and then when it is ready to set up, therer are more bubbles constantly, it is hard to tell when one pops and another takes its place.


When the jam changes in this way, ladle it into clean jars, wipe the top and put on the lids and rings, and process in boiling water. I did mine for 10 minutes and the lids popped right as I took them out of the water. If you are at a higher altitude, process for longer. This batch set right up and I really like the texture of it without the pectin. The pectin-free jam made from berries seems different than the one from apricots, less like syrup and more like regular jam. Probably the berries have a lot more natural pectin in them than apricots. Another thing I have heard that you can try to make pectin-free jam is to use a quince in it, because quinces are supposed to have a huge amount of natural pectins. Maybe I'll try that sometime too. I have to say a big THANK YOU! to Lovemuffin's cousin, for introducing me to a new method of making jam. It's really fun to know that you can experiment with jam and it will still taste good, even if it doesn't set up exactly the same as it would if you follow exactly the recipe from the pectin boxes.

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