If you grow berries or have fruit trees on your property, chances are there are a few weeks each summer where you’re faced with a serious problem: Too much fruit!
This can be a good problem to have. That is, unless it’s going bad faster than you can eat it or give it away to friends. If your fruit is over-ripening on the vine or dropping out of the trees faster than you can catch it, you are losing money.
Although it might not feel like it, if you grew all this fruit on your land, using your natural resources and water, you’re letting money slip through the cracks. You could pretty quickly turn your fruit into either a year’s worth of jam, saving your food budget, or you could do one better and give jars to family during the holidays, thereby extending your Christmas budget.
Jam is the answer. Voila! Money saved and thereby earned!
Nervous to make your own jam? Not so fast. Sure, you could freeze your fruit (for a short while) or start furiously baking treats, but you don’t need new ways to eat your fruit. You need new ways to save it or turn it into profit. Yes, it involves a little home canning, which can feel daunting, but the truth is, making jam is super simple.
Too Much Fruit on Purpose
My fiancee and I live in downtown Boston. We’re smack dab in the middle of the city. So we don’t have the problem of too much fruit. Instead, we had another problem: Not enough jam and a goal to trim our Christmas budget as we save for our wedding.
So this August, we set out to northern Massachusetts with a few friends to turn our dearth of jam around. We went berry picking!
We ended up with bags full of blueberries, red raspberries, and plums — all for a little over $20. We lugged it all home with us and started cooking!
Too Much Fruit Easily Becomes Just Enough Jam
We had never made jam before, but we found it incredibly easy. Making jam pretty much boils down to a few steps. (Pun intended.) What’s really nice for those of you with too much fruit is that 6 cups of fruit becomes just 3 to 4 cups of jam.
1. Clean and Boil Your Fruit
Wash your fruit, remove any hulls or pits, mash it up a bit and get it boiling. Be careful not to burn it. Stirring often helps. This step has the added benefit of making your house smell awesome!
2. Sweeten and Thicken Your Jam
Add about 4 cups of sugar and a packet of pectin — a naturally occurring chemical in fruit — for every 6 cups of fruit you have. For our blueberry jam, we added some finely chopped granny smith apples instead of pectin. Some fruit, like sour apples, have tons of pectin naturally.
3. Make Sure Your Jam Will Set
There are lots of tricks to make sure your jam will be thick enough. The one we learned from our friends we made our jam with involves putting a plate in the freezer. Drip a teaspoon of hot jam on the frosty plate, let it cool a bit, tip it vertically, and if the jam doesn’t run off, you’re good!
4. Jar Your Jam
We used a wide-mouth jar funnel to get our jam into our canning jars, but you don’t have to make this investment. As long as your jar rims are clean and dry when you put the flat lids on and tighten the rings, you’ll be fine. Also, make sure there’s at least a quarter of an inch of air in the tops of your jars before boiling! Hand-tight is tight enough for the lids.
5. Preserve Your Fruit Jam
Boil a big pot of water that’s deep enough to cover your sealed jars by an inch or so. Preserving will take 5 or 10 minutes, more if you live at a high altitude. You might have a rack to put on the bottom, to keep the jars from breaking from bumping against the bottom of the pot. If you don’t, take some jar rings you’re not using and line the bottom of the pot with those. Easy. Use jar tongs to get your jars in and out of the bot if you have them (below).
6. Cool and Store Your New Jam
After the air stops coming out of the jars and the lids are vacuum-sealed, you can pull them out and let them air cool. Try to keep them still for the first 24 hours so they seal properly. What was once too much fruit is now ready to sit on the shelf for up to a year (or more). Once you open a jar, keep it in the fridge. These blueberries would have gone bad, but now they’re Christmas jam!
Homemade Jam: Final Thoughts
Turning too much fruit into a wonderful, homemade holiday present or a year’s worth of jam for your family is a great move to make, and it’s very simple. My fiancee and I couldn’t have been happier with the way our jam turned out, and this was only our first time making it — we even made up new jams by putting a little bit of cardamom in our plum jam, and apples in our blueberry jam.
If you have too much fruit, I hear it’s better to jam it when it’s a little under-ripe, because there’s less pectin in fruit as it ripens. If your fruit is really ripe by the time you start jamming, you can always just use more pectin. The cold plate trick outlined above should help with this. If your jam is runny, boil it again and add more pectin.
Making jam is not an exact science. The good news is, jam is so hard to mess up, it doesn’t have to be. Good luck!
Did you turn too much fruit into jam? Tell us about your experience in the comments. Or, if you have questions, leave them below and I’ll meet you there!