06 September, 2009
Pear Jam-making Tips
Peel and chop pears into large chunks or slices. It really doesn't matter, because you will be mashing them in the pan later, anyway. Sprinkle with Fruit Fresh or with lemon juice to keep from turning brown. I use my 4-cup Pyrex measuring (glass) bowl with spout.
I like the fruit to be just a little softened up before making jam. Pears seem to have more juice at that point than when they are rock hard. Peel in such a way as to collect as much of the dripping loveliness of the juice in the bowl or container as possible. Having two containers close by is a must. One for the peels and cores (compost them) and the other for the juice and to hold roughly sliced-off chunks. Once I have my 4-4.5 cups worth of chopped pears, I pour them into a large pan (deep skillet in this case, but I've made them in glass cooking pots in the past). I cook these on medium heat as I use a potato masher to smoosh them smaller. Smoosh them as fine as you prefer. I like to have about 1/4 inch sized pieces of fruit in our jam. Since the chunks are so soft from the cooking, it spreads well on biscuits or toast just fine. I also like to add cinnamon to the batch...the amount varies for personal preference. If you are a nutmeg fan, add a dash of that, as well for a nice taste of autumn in your jam.
Follow the instructions in the fruit pectin you have purchased. I have used both Sure-Jell and Ball fruit pectin over the years, and have also used regular, low and no-sugar, or sugar-free. Read your package instructions carefully, as with the Ball sugar-free pectin, you will need to purchase Splenda in place of the sugar. It seems like the Sure-jell low sugar pectin worked well, but still required some sugar. Again, read the packages and recipes carefully. They are pretty adamant that you should follow all measurements exactly. I have fudged some and squeezed in a little extra fruit quite a few times. The Sure-Jell does not work as well when I do this, but the Ball brand works GREAT. For low-sugar, try the Sure-Jell pink box pectin. Otherwise, I really prefer Ball brand overall for full sugar and no-sugar (Splenda) for relatives who need sugar-free jam because of health and diet restrictions.
Pre-wash jars and lids. I like to run the jars and rings through the dishwasher before using. I don't know if the heat of the dishwasher is too much for the flat lids with new seals, so I wash them separately in sudsy water in the sink, to be certain I don't ruin the seal mechanism. I have a lot of jars leftover from past years, and these definitely need a good washing. I usually do this the night before I plan to cook up the jam. Rinse everything very well. Somewhere years ago, it seems like I also read not to use metal utensils. That's probably why I used to cook up the jam mixture in glass cooking pans for years. I use wooden spoons, ladles, or in a pinch, my plastic ladle. I'm trying not to use plastic much anymore, but hubby has yet to make me a food-safe, large, wooden ladle.
The next day, I place several of the jars and the lids and rings in a simmering water-bath to keep them sterilized and hot. Just before I need them, I use tongs and lift them out of the water and onto clean paper towels on the counter to drip dry.
After they are dry, I turn them right-side-up and fill with the cook jam mixture, which is also piping hot. Ladle jam mixture into jars, leaving a little room at the top, about 1/2 inch. I like to load up and seal one jar at a time. Clean the rim of any jam residue left from filling the jar. I use a tiny edge of a clean tea towel that I've dipped in the water bath. I make sure it gets the top of the rim and the threads of the jar. I also make sure it is dry with another dry part of the clean tea towel, so that water will not hamper a good seal. Make sure the flat lid and the ring is also free of water, but try not to touch any of the insides to keep it sterile. Place flat on top of filled jar, tighten on the ring as tightly as possible, then turn up-side-down. This helps to form a vacuum to seal the jar better. Keep turned up-side-down as in the photo below as the jars cool down for about 30 minutes.
Next, turn them upright and the jars will be on their way to sealing; completing the sealing process as the jam is pulled by gravity down to the bottom of the jars. Yes, you may push any "clicking" lids down to help it out! I always do this. If they are still quite warm, you will notice resistance from the lid, but they do pretty much always seal down on their own fairly quickly.
If you happen to have some that don't (I have not had one do this to me in a couple of years), you may place them in your dutch oven filled with hot water and let that water slow-boil over the jars for a time. I don't remember if its five minutes or more, and that can be easily googled fyc, but you must make sure that the jars completely submerge in the water bath.
I may have missed something in my haste to post this for a friend who needs this asap, but these are the most important things to know, complete with visual aids!
Let me know if you try this at home and how it goes!