Oy! It's June in California, soon to be July. Things have been coming into season, hot and heavy, since April. I've put up over 50 jars of jam in the last two weeks. Sometimes it feels like a long haul, but I feel so happy when I put those shiny jars in the basement. Next month it will be Christmas in July. Yeah. That's how I roll.
My stock of apple pectin from Bill's tree did not make it through this canning season, so I've been picking up apples and making small batches as needed. This works well and is less of a production than the big batch. If you are new to jam making and you want guaranteed success, use packaged pectin and follow the directions exactly. You will not be sorry. Works every time. But, if you have oddball amounts of fruit, not being married to the recipe is great. I have worked out a basic formula that is fairly reliable. If it comes out a little soft - Oh well. Pancake syrup!
So, here's the formula. One cup sugar per pound of prepared fruit, plus up to an additional cup of sugar, to taste. Add lemon juice. Usually, 1/4 cup per 3 pounds fruit. More to taste. If the fruit is high in pectin, such as blueberries or blackberries, you don't need to add pectin at all. If it is a low-pectin fruit, such as strawberries or peaches, add about 2/3 cup of this concentrated pectin for 3 pounds of fruit. Cook until it reaches a soft gel stage.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. I like a soft set. Please don't consider your jam a failure if it is a little soft. It will still be delicious. One of the reasons my jam is soft is that I use much less sugar than traditional jams, which used to be almost equal parts fruit and sugar. I really like it less sweet. That is why, when I do use commercial pectin, I use the pink stuff.
Here are a couple of examples of the two types of pectin. On the left, is plum and pineapple jam, made with commercial pectin. On the right is strawberry jam made with this pectin booster. For that recipe, I used 3 pounds prepared strawberries, 3 1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 2/3 cup of this pectin. It mounds up a bit, but is really more like preserves - fruit suspended in a thick syrup. But, it still stays on your toast.
Small Batch Pectin Booster
4 granny smith apples
10 cups water
Wash and quarter the apples. Do not peel or core. Wash and slice the lemon into 1/4 inch slices. Add the fruit to a large stock pot and add 10 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a brisk simmer and allow to simmer for about 1 hour. The apples will kind of explode out of their skins and the liquid will begin to get a little thick. Strain through a cheesecloth-lined sieve. Let stand to drain for at least an hour. Place the remaining liquid in a smaller sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until it is reduced by half. You should end up with 2 to 3 cups. Store in the fridge for up to one week or freeze for later use. Like my larger batch of pectin, I tend to use about 2/3 cup per 3 to 4 pounds of fruit.