Photo by  Dennis Keeley

Photo by Dennis Keeley

Stone Fruit Jam

This is a basic recipe for any type of stone fruit jam–plums, apricots and peaches—and it is truly the best. It can be doubled easily. Do not triple or the jam can scorch when there is too much volume to cook evenly. Apricot is most people’s favorite and one of the easiest because you don’t have to peel them.

A note on the jam-making fad—I am all for it! Take time to look at the artisan jams sold at farmer’s markets and specialty food stores, as the jam makers have been unbowed by tradition and include a number of interesting avor pairings in their products, such as rose water, pepper and geraniums.

Ingredients

  • 9 cups fruit, cut up
  • 6 cups sugar
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 or 2 Tbs. Grand Marnier (optional) 

Equipment

  • Copper jam pan (If you don’t have this specialized equipment, it is best to use a low, wide pan which allows the liquid to evaporate more quickly—a requirement for jam to thicken and jell. 
  • Immersion blender (wand)
  • Jam funnel
  • Jar lifter
  • Lid holder
  • Ladle
  • Large, deep stockpot for sealing and sterilizing the filled and sealed jam jars—known as the hot water bath process

Method

  • Prior to jam making, it is important to sterilize the jars. I run the jars and the outer rings in the dishwasher and keep them hot.
  • Sterilize the inner lids in boiling water for a few minutes using the lid holder.
  • If using peaches you will need to prepare them with a bit more care. Peel using a sharp vegetable peeler with a serrated edge or submerge them in boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds. Plunge in ice water. Remove and peel. Cut away the red around the pit.
  • Chop up each peach half into 3 sections and cut those into 3 additional pieces. They should be medium, bite-sized pieces. If using apricots and plums, you need only to remove the pit and cut into fourths. The plum peel adds gorgeous color and tartness. Also, there is no “fringe” around plum or apricot pits to worry about.
  • Measure and add prepared fruit to the jam pan.
  • Mix with the sugar and the lemon juice.
  • Let mixture sit for 1/2 hour in the jam or large sauté pan. The juices will draw out to prevent scorching.
  • Turn on the heat slowly and stir until the sugar melts.
  • Let the fruit, sugar and lemon juice boil gently until pourable, like a thick syrup. Use a candy or jam thermometer and continue heating the jam until it registers the finishing temperature for your area. (Refer to the chart below for finishing temperatures [gel point] based on altitude. This takes about 45 minutes.
  • Once up to temperature, use an immersion blender or potato masher to chop up most of the fruit to make more consistent. Take care to leave the wand below the surface of the jam mixture when it is blending or you will most surely burn yourself with hot flying jam. At a certain point, the jam creates a great deal of foam.  Stir frequently at this point to prevent the liquid from boiling over.  The foam will subside just before it reaches the gel point. Take care to pay attention to gel point temperature. It is better to err on the side of a bit undercooked. If you cook the jam too long, it will be like rubber or taste burnt.
  • Add Grand Marnier to the apricot or plum jam at this point just before the jam is up to temperature/gel point.
  • Place the jam funnel on the lip of the jars, ladle the jam mixture into the sterilized jars.
  • Leave about 1/4-inch of head space between the top of the jam and the jar top.
  • Wipe the rims thoroughly with a clean damp paper towel. (I dip the paper towel into the boiling water used for the sterilizing bath.)
  • Close the jars, but not too tightly.
  • Then process them in a hot water bath. Make sure the jars are covered by at least 2 to 3 inches of boiling water.
  • Continue cooking on a low boil for 10 to 12 minutes.
  • Remove jars with jar lifter and let cool on a wire rack. You should hear a pinging sound as the jars seal. When cool, remove outer rings and check each jar for a good seal. Then dry the outer rings to prevent rust and screw back on the next day after the jam is cool.

SEASONAL FOOD SOURCES: Lily and Steve’s Porch Market, Sprouts, farmers markets, neighbors and friends.  (Remember to keep your eyes open for potential foraging goods.) 

NOTE: If the inner lid does not seal properly after the water bath, simply try again by making sure that the jar seal and ring are aligned correctly. Repeat the hot water bath as described. If the jam is too loose, take out of the jars, clean them in the dishwasher and boil the jam for a few more minutes to thicken. You will have to use new sealers but can reuse the outer rings. Take care to pay attention to gel point temperature. It is better to err on the side of a bit undercooked. If you cook the jam too long, it will be like rubber or taste burnt.