It’s been a rough couple of days. Got into a big fight with Sebastian, had to deal with Toby eating all our food and putting the cheese in the silverware drawer. Also, spent too much money. So taking a couple hours to make jam and just clear my head turned out to be a great idea.

Here are the 5 easy steps to making jam:

  1. ROTTEN FRUIT IS GOOD. The secret to good jam is, believe it or not, is to start with overripe fruit, fruit that is just beginning to rot. Not moldy, though! Slightly brown is ok. Also, pairing your fruit with herbs, spices or other fruits is always a good idea.
  2. PICK YOUR FRUIT. Most any fruit is alright. All berries are good. Apricots and plums make great jam. Stay clear from citrus fruits and apples – that’s marmalade and apple butter, a whole other story. I’ll get to that some day. Today, I used cantaloupe with ginger root and peaches with fresh mint. Peeled, removed seeds/pits, chopped into small pieces. If you like your jam with chunks of fruit, cut one third of the pieces into bigger and larger chunks (2″x2″).
  3. SANITIZE THE JARS. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! Sebastian got me some mason jars. I washed them with soap, and then boiled them in water for two minutes, with the lids. When preserving anything (especially acidulent foods like jam), you must sterilize the jars. When they’re done boiling, turn off the heat, and keep in hot water until canning time. Dry jars with paper towels before canning the preserves.
  4. You’re gonna need a lot of sugar. If you’re feeling fancy, buy the sugar with pectin, sold for jam-making purposes. Simple, white sugar does the trick for me. How much you use will depend entirely on what kind of fruit you’re using, how ripe your fruit is (hopefully, very), and how sweet you like your jam. 
  5. Taste as you go! After adding the chopped fruit to a pot with some freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon), I added sugar 1/4 cup at the time, tasting between each addition. I grated some fresh ginger root into the melon while it was cooking, and simmer the peaches with 10 big mint leaves (I removed the mint right before canning).
  6. Don’t leave, and don’t touch. Once the fruit starts bubbling, bring down to a simmer, and cooking for a long time, until the fruit gets nice and mushy, and reduces in volume. Since I don’t use sugar with pectin, my jam will stay pretty liquid until it’s spent a night in the fridge. Also, don’t touch. Sugar + hot fruit = third degree burns.

And those, my friends, are the five simple steps to making jam. Decorate your mason jar with a cute cloth top and a label, and give one to your boss/neighbor/milkman. Or hog it, why not. There’s nothing like homemade jam.