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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Homemade Strawberry Apple Jam, and the differences between jams, jellies, compotes, confitures, etc.

My local supermarket had quite a few offers on strawberries in the past few months, where a punnet of 454g USA or Australian strawberries were being sold for slightly less than $5. I grabbed a few punnets, partly because I was kiasu, and partly because I knew I wanted to do a ton of things with them. So far, I've eaten them (duh), used them as decoration on my chocolate cakes, on my tarts, in my cakes... but I still have so many of them and I was afraid they would rot. So I did the next best thing - I decided to can them and make jams out of them! I decided to do a combination of strawberries and apples, but when I was done, I hesitated over whether to call it a jam or preserve or even perhaps a compote?

Check out the ruby red chunk of strawberry in my 'jam' here :]

Naturally, I had to find out what were the differences and I settled on calling this 'thing' I made a jam. I have made a tiny table of what I have found out: 
  • A jam is basically made by boiling fruit and sugar together to a thick consistency whereas a preserve is where the fruits are made into either jams or jellies and are cooked in whole or large pieces to retain their shapes. 
  • A jelly is basically sugar boiled with fruit juice and gelatin, and does not have any fruit bits. It is usually sweeter and more transparent - think of those strawberry or other fruit jellies that we can get locally in those small plastic cones with a white plastic seal on them.  
  • Of course I had to ask what a marmalade was, and it's basically a jam made with citrus fruits and has bits of rind in it. 
  • A compote (or french for mixture) is defined as a dessert made with whole or pieces of fruit in a sugar syrup - sounds like preserves to me! 
  • Similarly, conserves are known as whole fruit jams, which also strike me as the same as preserves. 
  • To makes things more difficult, there are spreads, which wiki defines as a jam or preserve with no added sugar - confusing and contradictory much?! 
  • Then of course, I'm sure some of you have stumbled across terms like confitures and gelées before - these are basically french terms for preserves/jam and jelly respectively. 
  • Finally, there's the syrup. This is pretty simple - it's basically sweetened concentrated fruit juice!
  •  There are also things we know as chutneys and relishes which involve fruit too, but I'll keep that for another day!
And there you have it! I hope the above list was hopeful to at least someone other than me, because I finally got my doubts cleared and I also realized that many bakeries like to use the french word for jelly just to make their desserts sound a little more classy. 

And now onto my jam! A jam is made when fruit, sugar and acid are heated together. First off, all fruits contain natural pectin, but some, like strawberries, do not contain enough natural pectin to gel (to form a jam consistency). When you cut the fruit and heat it, pectin molecules are released. The sugar added helps to bind the liquid from the fruit to the pectin molecules, bringing them closer to one another. When the mixture is brought to a rolling boil, some of that excess liquid is then boiled away, encouraging greater binding between the liquid and pectin, creating a more concentrated mixture. The acid added, in the form of lemon juice does 2 things: it helps with the pectin and it also neutralizes any 'charge' that the pectin molecules might have, encouraging closer binds between pectin and liquid once again. And that's about all there is to making jam really! If you are keen to find out more about jams, there is lots of good information floating about the net, and a good place to start is Food in Jars (she cans all kinds of things) as well as this site where I got a headstart on.

Oops the picture's a little blurry :/



Strawberry Apple Jam

Loosely adapted from Ina Garten's Easy Strawberry Jam Recipe and Allrecipes.com

Ingredients
200g   fresh strawberries, hulled
90g     rose apple, peeled and diced
150g   castor sugar 
25ml   lemon juice

Method:
  1. Wash and drain the strawberries before hulling them. Cut them into halves or smaller pieces if you want a smoother jam. Wash, peel and dice the apple before combing with the strawberries and lemon juice in a heavy-bottomed pot. 
  2. Cover and cook gently until the fruit begin to release their juices, about 5 minutes. 
  3. Once the apples begin to break down, stir in the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, bring the mixture to a rolling boil over a medium heat, stirring often to ensure it does not stick to the bottom.
  4. Reduce the mixture to low heat, allowing the mixture to simmer for about 10 minutes or until it thickens. The mixture is ready when it registers 105°C on the thermometer or when it passes the gelling test*.
  5. Spoon the mixture into a sterilized glass jar before allowing it to cool to room temperature. Store covered in the refrigerator.
And the perspective's on this a little wonky :/
Janine's jots: 
  • *How to test the 'jellying point': There are 3 tests you can use - the 105°C temperature point I mentioned earlier, or the spoon test. Simply place a spoon in the freezer before you start jamming and when you think the mixture is thick enough, dip it into the mixture and raise the spoon out. The jelly is done when the syrup forms a sheet that hangs from the spoon. A similar test is the wrinkle test that some call it. Place a small plate in the freezer before you start and spoon a bit of the hot mixture onto the plate when you think it is done. Allow it to cool for a minute (I chill it in the fridge) and push your finger through it. If the mixture 'wrinkles', then setting point has been reached. 
  • Notes: You will realize that many jam recipes ask you to skim and discard any foam that forms but I did not indicate it above because of a few reasons - the foam is usually discarded because it is not the consistency people like in jams and also because it contains air which affects headspace which affects storage of the jam as well as food safety. Since I do not heat process the jars and consume the jams within a short time, this doesn't really affect me. Alternatively, you can prevent the foam by adding some butter or by microwaving the foam to produce normal jam again! 
  • Taste: The original recipe called for 200g of sugar, which I reduced to 150g, out of which 30g was muscovado sugar. However, I still found the jam rather sweet (I don't like overly sweet jams) - this might be because the rose apple used was very sweet. I will reduce the sugar to about 100g the next time. I also found the mixture a little too tart for my liking - I will probably reduce the lemon juice used to 15ml instead.  
  • Serving size: This makes about 250g worth of jam - which is just enough for a fortnight's worth of spread for breads and rolls for an individual like me :] Do feel free to double the recipe without any problems, because my recipe is half of the original. 
  • Modifications: If I were to do this again, I would boil the apples first before adding the strawberries because the apples take longer to lose their shape and because I want a chunkier jam (or preserve). 
  • Storage: Without heat processing, the jam will store well in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks. If you wish to keep it for longer (up to a year), seal and heat process them. 
  • Would I make this again?: Oh yes, I foresee many lovely combinations, like strawberry rose, pineapple mango and other tropical combinations that will suit our climate perfectly!
  • Other comments: Do note that the quantities of sugar will really depend on your taste. However, beware of reducing the sugar by too much because this will interfere with the jam-forming process. Here, my strawberries were slightly tart and my rose apple was slightly crisp and sweet.  The sugar levels are thus adjusted to suit what I like. Also, if making an all strawberry jam, pectin might have to be added because strawberries are really low in pectin. I overcame that by adding apples and increasing the amount of lemon juice, both which are high in pectin. 
ETA: Since I wrote this post (which was quite a few weeks ago), I have made this same jam recipe with a few variations - less sugar, more fruit, less lemon, different type of fruit, etc. Another variation I have tried is with just 260g of strawberries, 130g of sugar and the zest and juice of a lemon. The jam was a little on the tart side, which was probably because I added too much lemon juice AND zest. 

Anyway, my mom loves my homemade jam and why not make more jam when there's someone appreciative of it right? :] Expect a few more variations coming your way soon!

13 comments:

wendyywy @ Table for 2..... or more said...

I made something similiar weeks back.
Just grate the apples, no need to cook them for so long :)
I do not skim the bubbles as well, I think for pectin set jams, that is crucial. I do not use pectin in my jams so I didn't bother. When the jam gets boiled long enough, there are no more bubbles.

Sherleen.T said...

the color is so bright and natural. i learn a lot from your post, thanks for sharing...^^

Janine said...

@Wendy: oh I dice the apples because I don't really want all the apples to break down - I quite like the bits of apple and strawberries in the jam :D but thanks for the tip, I didn't think of it! Ya I agree with you on the bubbles, not sure why many are so bothered by it though?

@Sherleen: glad it was helpful :D

Anncoo said...

Great post Janine. Thanks for sharing, I must try to make some jams myself.

Julia @Mélanger said...

I just love making my own jam. Yours looks lovely. Great right up as well for us all to learn from, too!

shaz@feedingmykidsbetter said...

love the red against the white. great photo composition :)

Cook.Snap.Eat.Love said...

This is a great post janine! do you mind if I put it up on my interesting article page in my blog?

Sonia (Nasi Lemak Lover) said...

great homemade fruit jam!

Janine said...

@Anncoo: do try, I'm sure your results will be spectacular!

@Julia, SHaz and Sonia: thanks :D

@Jacob: no problem :D

ninazsyafinaz said...

Hi JANINE...Congratulations for winning the 5th GA from Bisouatoi..hehehe..btw..the jam look tempting..and that you for the info of the differences between them/:)

Viv said...

what an informative post!! haha i think im a little bit clearer about the diff terms but some words seem to mean the same thing haha.
apple and strawbs jam is a combo i havent tried before! looking fwd to summer here when i can start jam making again! i also wanna try making fruit butter too!

Janine said...

@Nina: thanks :D

@Viv: oh fruit butters - that sounds lovely! glad the post helped!

Gloria said...

wow your jam look amazing, I love strawberries jam! gloria

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