Sunday, September 18, 2011

Low-Sugar Blueberry Jam

I love jam.
If I could fill my basement shelves with delicious sweet jammy goodness, I would! So far this year, I have made strawberry, marionberry and raspberry jams. Later this week, I will make peach jam. Today, I'm going to make blueberry. Did I mention that I love jam?
The thing about jam that has always vexed me, and still does, is the pectin. Pectin has never been my friend. Time and time again I have had my jams come out way too runny. My wife loves this as she prefers jam to be on the runny side. Me, I like a jam that is thick but not too thick, with chunks of fruit. Neither of us likes too much sugar and generally I make my jam with much less than most recipes call for. This, I think, has been one of my issues when making the stuff. Too little sugar, often times coupled with the wrong kind of pectin. What I've ended up with on more than one occasion is little more than syrup. Once I way over-compensated and ended up with something akin to cement. When making low- or no-sugar jams, it is vital to use the correct pectin. Regular pectin is only good for jams that contain lots of sugar. I went through many batches of jam before I figured this one out.
Even with all the jam I've made, I'm still experimenting and every batch of jam is a new adventure. I still haven't gotten it mastered and my pectin still gives me fits on occasion. Today I will boldly try again.
Yesterday, I happened to luck my way into a great deal on a flat of blueberries. I froze a few of them for smoothies and the rest went into the jam pot.

I started by sterilizing my Ball jars. In the biggest pot I have, I boiled the jars for 10-15 minutes. I boiled the lids as well in a separate smaller pan. In my jam pot I combined:
18 c (9 pints) fresh blueberries, washed and picked through
4 c sugar
1/3 c lemon juice
I used a potato masher to mash the berries a bit and heated them over medium-high heat until they began to boil, stirring the pot frequently. By this point, my jars and lids were ready so I removed them from their bath, keeping the large pot of water ready to process the jars. I increased the heat on the jam to high and added:
5 T low or no sugar pectin
I cooked the jam at a rolling boil for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. I then removed the jam from the heat and carefully ladled it into the jars. I covered the jars with their lids and securely tightened them before placing them back into the boiling water, making sure there was enough water to cover the jars by an inch or two. I processed the jars for 10 minutes, then set the jars on a rack to cool completely before storing them.

That's it! The result? This batch came out just a teensy bit runnier than I would have preferred. I think 7 T of pectin might have worked a little better. I should mention here that the pectin container recommended 1-1/2 T of pectin for every 1-1/3 c of fruit - a whopping full cup of pectin! Not wishing to repeat the cement experience again, I chose to use much less. Even though it was a tad runny the flavor was wonderful and the jam wasn't overwhelmingly sweet!
Later this week I'll try my hand at the jam game again with the box of peaches we have. My tummy is giddy with anticipation!

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