Making Quick Jam with Pectin
The cherries are at their peak in the last two weeks of June. My husband and I have been picking buckets of cherries and making preserves for the past week. I use a quick jelly method with pectin. Pectin is a thickening agent derived from apples or other natural sources. It helps to gel homemade fruit preserves, cutting the cooking time in half and yields more product. I say quick, but when you are working with cherries the preparation time seems never-ending. Removing the stones from the fruit is very time-consuming so I don’t want to spend additional time over a hot pot stirring jam till it sets. Here is how I do it:
First of all, I buy pectin and sugar. I use a product called Gelfix super. For every 1000g ( 8 cups) of fruit, use one package of Gelfix and 350g sugar. The sugar-to-pectin ratio varies with different brands of pectin, so check the package. I buy new jar lids and check my jars for any chips around the rims.
Secondly, I pick cherries, bring the buckets of cherries home and wash them. I load the dishwashers with jars and lids then turn it on the wash cycle with hot dry. The heat will sterilize the jars and lids. While the jars are washing I pit the cherries by hand. I have tried cherry pitters, but I prefer to cut a slit on the side of the cherries and pull the pit out with my thumb. By the time I am through pitting the dishwasher is finished its cycle. I don’t open it until I am ready for the jars.
Next I measure the fruit and sugar. I place a large pot on the stove (cooker) and fill it with fruit. I mix the sugar and pectin together and pour it over the fruit. I stir the fruit and sugar, coating all the fruit with sugar, and let it stand for 5 minutes. Next, I cook the fruit over medium high heat until it reaches a full boil, then cook another 10 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Next I add 2 teaspoons citric acid and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract for ever 1000 g of fruit. At this point it will foam. You can skim it off the surface, but I have found that when you start jarring the fruit the foam sticks to the side of the pot as the level of liquid is reduced.
After 10 minutes, test the gel. I use a simple method of dropping a little jam onto a frozen food package. If the juice runs after a few seconds cook it a little longer. If it stays put and is like jelly when you touch it then the jam is ready to jar.
When the fruit is ready, fill the jars with fruit, seal them with a tight lid and place them on a rack to cool. Keep the fruit boiling while filling the jars. The fruit must be hot or the lids will not seal properly. Leave the jars undisturbed over night. The next day check the seals making sure all the jars are sealed well. Label and store them in a cool place. Jams can keep for up to 12 months however jams are usually consumed earlier at my house. This same method can be used for many different fruits.