When making jams, jellies and preserves, the less sugar you use the greater the flavor impact of the fruit. If honey is used there will be a flavor change and the jellies/jams must be cooked longer. If you use artificial sweeteners use only the natural type to avoid bitterness and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Cooked down jellies in which the juice is extracted by the open kettle method contain 60% fruit versus commercial products (pressure cooked to extract more juice but pectin destroying) with only 45% fruit.
Jelly: has great clarity from dripping the cooked fruit through a cloth before adding sugar and finishing.
Jams, Butter and Pastes: are whole fruit purees of increasing density.
Marmalades, Preserves and Conserves: are bits of fruit in a heavy syrup.
High Pectin Fruits: Apples, Crabapples, Quinces, Red Currants, Gooseberries, Plums and Cranberries. These need no additional pectin. If you get syrupy jelly you used too much sugar or did not cook the juice long enough after adding the sugar.
Low Pectin Fruits: Strawberries, Blueberries, Peaches, Apricots, Cherries, Pears, Blackberries, Raspberries, Grapes, Pineapple and Rhubarb. These require combining with high pectin fruits or adding a commercial pectin.
To Test Pectin Content: Put 1 Tablespoon cooled fruit juice in a glass. Add an equal amount of grain alcohol and shake gently. The alcohol will bring the pectin together in a gel. If a large amount of pectin is present it will appear in a single mass or clot when poured from the glass. Use equal amounts of juice and sugar. If the pectin collects in several small particles use have as much sugar as juice.
To sterilize jelly glasses: fill jars 3/4 full of water and place them in a shallow pan partly filled with water. Simmer 15 minutes and then keep hot until filled. If the lids are placed on the steaming jars they will be sterilized simultaneously.
Tips: – Use enamel or stainless steel pots not aluminum or copper.
On average, use 3/4 Cup sugar to 1 Cup fruit or juice depending on pectin content[see above].
Very acid fruits can tolerate a whole Cup of sugar.
Sterilize jars and seal tightly. -For fruit that tends to discolor add lemon juice or Ascorbic acid.
Keep in a cool dark place but do not refrigerate.
Making Jam: is easiest and most economical as it needs only one cooking step and uses the pulp. Measure the fruit. In putting it in the pan, crush the lower layers to provide moisture until more is drawn out by cooking or add a little water. Simmer the fruit until it is soft. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Bring to a boil, stirring to avoid sticking. Reduce heat and cook until thickened – up to 1/2 hr.
Making Preserves and Conserves: Place fruit in a pot with an equal amount of sugar in layers ending with sugar on top and allow to rest overnight. Bring slowly to a boil and simmer until fruit is translucent. Drain fruit and put in sterile jars. Simmer syrup longer if necessary to thicken it and pour over fruit. Seal and store.
Making juice for jelly: Wash and drain fruit. Prick or crush the fruit. Add water if fruit is not juicy enough eg. apples. Add enough to the kettle that you can see it through the fruit but the fruit is not floating. Cook uncovered until the fruit is soft and loosing its color. Have ready a jelly bag [several layers of cheese cloth]. Wet it, wring it out and line a strainer with it. Let the juice drip through without squeezing it as this muddies and flavors the jelly. This juice can be kept up to 6 months before proceeding by freezing or canning it.
Making jelly: Measure the strained juice and put it in an enamel or stainless steel pan. Simmer 5 min. Skim off froth. Measure and warm sugar in a pan in the oven and add it. Stir until dissolved. Cook at a gentle simmer until the point of jelling. To test, place a small amount of jelly on a spoon, cool it slightly and let it drop back into the pot from the side of the spoon. As the syrup thickens, 2 large drops will form along the edge of the spoon. when these two drops run together and fall as a single drop the “sheeting” stage has been reached- 220 to 222 deg F and the jelly will be firm when cooled. It can take anywhere from 10 to 30 min for jelly to reach this stage depending on the fruit and the amount of sugar. Take the jars from the sterilizing bath and invert on a cake cooler. They should be hot but dry when filled. Fill to 1/4″ from the top. Cover with melted paraffin 1/8″ deep.