I married into fruit. My husband, Ken, moved into our house over a decade ago in a city full of skinny little yards—most of them no bigger than your average driveway. Yet in that time he’s managed to create a thriving urban orchard that includes apples, peaches, cherries, pluots, and apricots, as well as grapes, blueberries, and raspberries.
Before I came into the picture, Ken shared his bounty with his housemates, made a lot of pies, and tossed the rest into the freezer—in fact, the first time I opened his freezer, I noticed that it contained little more than fruit (and ice cubes). This summer, as I made crisps, cobblers, and pies, and yet still watched our freezer fill up, panic set in and I said, “Enough.” It was time for jam.
I hadn’t made jam in years, partly out of laziness and partly because I love Sarabeth’s Spreadable Fruit. This stuff is great—it actually tastes like fruit, not sugar, and there’s no pectin added—but it’s not cheap. Given the way we go through it (spread on toast and scones and even stirred into yogurt), I thought that making my own version might not be a bad idea. Plus, I could reclaim space in the freezer.
Sarabeth’s jam isn’t very thick—in fact, it’s on the thin side. I checked out her website and learned that her preserves don’t contain added pectin, which probably accounts for their fluid texture. My goal was to approximate her preserves using raspberries and peaches. What you‘ll find here is just that, a loose spreadable jam with bright fruit flavor and that isn’t too sweet, perfect for toast, scones, and of course, yogurt.
Assemble your ingredients: fruit and sugar. I made batches of jam with varying ratios of sugar to fruit, and the best of the lot was 1 cup sugar to 10½ cups fruit.
Warm the sugar (to melt it more evenly) by adding it to a saucepan over medium heat and giving it a few stirs for about a minute.
Next, add the raspberries. You can use frozen raspberries—I do, since in our yard, they’re ready about a month before the peaches.
Then stir the raspberries until they are coated with sugar.
Let the mixture cook until the sugar is dissolved and the raspberries have released their juices. Be careful not to let them cook too long. If you’re like me, you still want them to hold their shape at this point.
It’s peach time. Traditionally, peaches are peeled before being cooked into jam—which involves scoring and blanching them. Who has time for that? Not me. Instead, I use a vegetable peeler to remove the skins. If your peaches are very juicy, peel them over a bowl to catch the stray juice.
Next, halve the peaches with a sharp knife, remove the pit, and slice them about ¼-inch thick. I prefer smaller pieces of fruit in my jam, so I then stack the slices together and slice them in half.
Add the peaches to the pan, let them cook for 5 minutes, and then give it all a mash (with a potato masher) to help break things down. Don’t worry if you mash the raspberries, too.
Let the fruit boil for about 10 minutes. There are various ways you can check to see if the fruit is thickened enough, but I like to use the spoon test. First, keep a metal spoon in the freezer. Then, when you think the jam is ready, dip the spoon in and let the jam run off of it. If the jam runs off the spoon slowly in big drips as shown here, it’s ready. If it runs off the spoon in a fast, thin stream, it needs more time—try testing again after five minutes.
Once your jam is cooked, you’ll notice that a white froth has accumulated across the surface. It doesn’t taste bad, but it doesn’t look nice—and if you’re going to process the jam in canning jars, its removal is recommended. The froth contains a lot of air that will inhibit headspace in the jar and promote molding, so skim it off using a shallow spoon.
STEP IT #11
After skimming the jam, add fresh lemon juice. It gives a boost of brightness to the fruit flavor.
Let the jam cool off the heat for a few minutes before adding it to the jars. To minimize mess, I use a measuring cup to scoop the jam out of the pan and into a funnel placed over a jar.
And remember, jam isn’t just for toast. Try stirring a few spoonfuls into plain yogurt—it’s a whole lot fresher tasting than the pre-flavored store-bought variety.