This might be embarrassing to admit, but until recently, I didn’t know the difference between a jam and a jelly. That is, until I spoke with Pamela Bennett, author of Jams & Jellies in Less Than 30 Minutes. She quickly explained that a jam consists of one or more fruits, and the “final product allows you to see the blueberries, apricots, or other fruits shining through the jar!” A jelly, however, is typically clear without chunks of fruit. Seems pretty obvious now, no?
Bennett is a woman who knows her jams and jellies and, like the title of her book indicates, can make them quickly. In fact, she makes it seem easy, effortless, and fun — which is why she wrote the book. As she says, “I realized that jam making isn’t the difficult, laborious process that most people imagine. My mama made the most incredible jams, and I revitalized the process by eliminating old-fashioned steps that our great-grandmothers followed.”
She’s highlighted the basics below and shared a few recipes from her book so you can get started today. What to begin with? Try her No-Cook Strawberry Jam.
Good luck and let us know how your jams turn out!
Jam making needs only four components: fruit(s), sugar, an acid (such as lemon juice/lime juice or vinegar), and pectin. Using my process, the fruit(s) are brighter and more vibrant in color and tastier because no ‘unpronounceable additives’ are used! The balance of the acid (lemon/lime juice) and the sugar helps in the actual gelling process. And pectin is a purely natural ingredient — made from apples! It’s the ‘miracle’ product that binds everything together and makes the jam or jelly actually ‘gel.’
[Editor’s Note: Pectin comes as a liquid (made from apples) or dry (from citrus fruits or apples). It can be found in most grocery stores, just make sure to check the expiration date as they expire.]
The Importance of Sugar
Sugar not only makes the jams and jellies yummy, it is a critical ingredient in creating the gelling process. To edit some of the sugar while you’re making a jam doesn’t just affect the taste, this alteration can cause bacteria to grow and also cause spoilage. So, be safe, and don’t alter the sugar required in the recipe!
In general, over-ripe fruits should be avoided. A strawberry that’s “just a little bit bruised” isn’t going to taste or look better just because you decide to use it in your jam. You’re not covering up a flaw; over-ripe fruit should be discarded. Since my book doesn’t call for any artificial ingredients, your fruits are the star of the show! The flavors from these recipes are richer and they’re the true essence of the fruit, so put only the best in your product. Many of my recipes use frozen fruits so you can make a blueberry jam in snowy February, but we won’t compromise on flavor. The cantaloupe jam, for instance, requires ‘just ripe.’ Once you’ve made your own “little masterpieces in a jar,” you won’t purchase store jam again because you can see and taste the difference.