Key Ingredients for the Perfect Jam or Jelly
When making homemade jam or jelly always select good quality fruit at its peak of ripeness. Both ripeness and the type of fruit will determine pectin content.
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- Martha, what do I need to make the perfect jam or jelly?
- To start with, let's describe jelly as having a firm, tender texture and an excellent flavor.
You can only achieve the excellent flavor using good quality fruit at its peak of ripeness.
You want to select nice, red strawberries, the ones that are colored throughout.
Often these are the ones that are freshly picked from gardens or roadside stands.
The big strawberries with the white centers tend to have best flavor.
Naturally, fruit has pectin in it, and that pectin content varies by the type of fruit and its ripeness.
Slightly under-ripe fruit contains the highest amount of pectin.
As the fruit continues to ripen the pectin content decreases.
When commercial pectin is added to the fruit, it's okay to use all fruit at the ideal stage of ripeness.
- Do I have to add pectin?
There is actually a method of making jam or jelly without added pectin.
We call it the long cooking method, because the fruit and sugar are cooked until it reaches the jelling stage.
Without added pectin you'll have the best results using three-fourths fully ripe fruit and one-fourth slightly under-ripe fruit.
The additional pectin and acid in the under-ripe fruit helps to give jelly a better set.
- Is it okay to use soft a bruised peaches to make jelly?
- It's not recommended because the soft and over-ripe fruit has a lower acidity level, and there is less natural pectin in it.
Therefore, when canning peaches or freezing strawberries, don't set aside those that are soft or bruised for making jam.
If you do, you can expect that you will have a soft, runny set from the over-ripe fruit.
- Is it okay to use misshapen fruit?
- The shape of the fruit is not going to affect a jam or jelly.
As long as the fruit is perfectly ripe, it will still make good jam.
Remember, you're crushing the fruit to make jam, and you're cooking it to make juice.
So the appearance won't matter.
To have great results making jam, select good quality fruit, and have fun jamming.