I’ve been making jams and Jellies for quite a few years. I started with the Bernadin home canning cook book and basic canning kit from the local hardware store. The kit served me well for a long time but the book did not. I was dissatisfied with the methods instructed in these books. The process of boiling the heck out of all that lovely delicate fruit and commercial pectin containing dextrose and citric acid …there had to be better ways of making preserves! I was also starting to notice all those expensive gourmet jams in stores and it really piqued my interest. I wanted to make that kind of jam at home but there were no recipes.
I set off on a quest to find unique recipes and new techniques. There were plenty misses along the way but I did figure it out. This article is the first segment in a series of articles that I will be sharing on home preserving. Today I am going to detail the three key ingredients for success and the book that made it all possible.
The three key ingredients for success are Maceration, DIY natural pectin and inspiration.
I did not learn these techniques on my own. I found a book that changed everything and it remains the only recipe book that I have ever read cover to cover. Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber. You can find Mes Confitures, the Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber at many books stores and retailers.
Christine Ferber is an internationally known master Patisserie, widely known as the Fairy God mother of Jams and Jellies. Her recipe book shares her precise techniques, tools and ideologies behind the creation of perfection in a jar. To further delight me, her book and recipes are organized by seasons and written simply and honestly. Its almost like reading a recipe written by an old friend.
Christine Ferber’s recipes are truly unique and hit all the right notes for me. She knows how to pair ingredients in ways that bring out the best flavours. There is a hint of surprise and decadency in these recipes and yet, they are unpretentious and simple ingredients. Her techniques encourage the most gentle of processing, no more boiling that fruit to oblivion! Her recipes used combinations that inspire and spark creativity. Strawberry mint, Black Cherry with Pinot Noir, Apricot with Spiced Apple, Rosehip with Vanilla, Rhubarb with Acacia Honey and even chocolate jams.
Preserving jams and jellies are a wonderful way to bottle up summer into a pretty jar to be enjoyed throughout the year.
These mouth watering, delectable recipes are no more difficult to achieve than the standard boil and jar recipes. Once you have learned the general techniques you will be quickly able to adapt and start making your own unique blends. Most ingredients are easily accessible to a homesteader. You might have to substitute one type of pear or apple for another; no biggie. My ginger pear jam is my new prized jam, it smells like summer and fresh pears when you open the jar– rather uplifting on those cold winter days. I also make dandelion jelly, rosehip jam and rose petal jelly, all picked from the back garden.
My focus has been to develop recipes that are vibrant and fresh tasting, that do not rely on commercial pectin and give you a an elevated quality of product for your pantry, friends and family or market stall.
Tips for you to consider incorporating into your recipes for Jams and Jellies.
Technique 1. Maceration. This here is the secret to my success. You take your fruit, lemon juice & sugar, put it in a non reactive bowl (I use ceramic), cover it with a cloth and let it macerate over night in a cool pantry. The next day you will strain the liquid from the solids and boil only the liquid. This ensures that the fruit itself has not been boiled to oblivion losing its nutritional value, freshness & brightness.
Maceration draws out the liquid from the fruit, and then steeps the fruit in the lovely sugar, lemon, fruit syrup that is created while it rests overnight.
Technique 2. Apple Pectin. Some fruits have very little natural pectin in them and for those you need to add some or the jams wont set. You can easily make a natural pectin using green apples, sugar, water, lemon. You are in fact making a very tasty green apple jelly. You can find the recipe on page 120 of Mes Confitures. I pour this jelly into small jars so I can use only what I need for my recipes.
Technique 3. Pomona’s Universal Pectin. Sometimes I don’t have apples and sometimes I want to use honey in lieu of sugar or a diabetic relative is requesting something special. The pectin make this possible. This is a pure citrus pectin with no dextrose or preservatives. Regular pectin requires 55-85% sugar to set firmly, this pectin uses calcium water to activate the gelling in your preserves.
Jar Sealing. I seal my jars differently than instructed in the book. Christine uses jars with screw top lids and here in Canada we have the two piece lids. She inverts her jars (while hot) to seal, and I do a water bath sealing process. We are using different jars so I follow the manufacturer instructions. Waterbath or steam bath sealing does heat the fruit which I loathe to do but I have not seen a negative effect on the final product.
If you want to read more about Christine Ferber here is a fantastic English written article; From Alsace, Sweet Love for the World from the New York Times.
Check back over the summer, I promise to share some of my jam and jelly recipes. You can find one sample recipe from this book in a post that I wrote here. It was the first recipe that I tried and was a big hit at home: How to make Confiture de Fraises au Poivre Noir et à la Menthe Fraîche.It sounds really fancy but really it’s just Strawberry jam infused with a bit of mint and black pepper !