I love to learn new stuff. Yesterday, I decided to learn to make jam. I know lots of you are old hands at this sort of thing, but I'm a city girl and, except for the astonishing peach harvest of 1976 that forced my mother to make enough jam for the entire Pacific Coast, I don't have any experience with canning and such. This decision was precipitated by my loquat tree's first harvest ripening faster than we can eat them. As I mentioned before, loquats don't keep. Not at all. Not even overnight. And some of them were starting to rot on the tree. After several years of waiting for this tree to produce fruit, that seemed like quite a shame.
I found a number of different recipes for loquat jam online and blended what I liked from each one to come up with my own recipe. I'll share it with you; it can easily be adapted for any kind of fruit. It turns out making jam is really easy!
1. Start with your fruit. I started with a bowl of loquats which netted me about four cups of fruit.
2. Peel your fruit, if desired, and remove seeds, if any. For loquats, about 15 fruits equals 1 cup peeled and chopped. This is by far the hardest and most tedious part.
There is probably an easier way to do this, but I couldn't come up with one. I cut the fruit in half, pulled out the seeds, peeled off the skins, then broke the fruit into pieces and tossed them in a pot.
4. Put the chopped fruit in a pot and barely cover it with water. Maybe don't even barely cover it. I put in way too much water and it took forever to cook down. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it looks about right. Okay, that may be too vague. You want to cook it until the fruit is soft and sweet and you have mostly fruit without much water. It's not rocket science. You just don't want it to be too runny for jam.
5. Stir in a packet of pectin, if you want to. As far as I can tell, the purpose of the pectin is to thicken the jam as it cools. If you don't care if your jam is a little runny, you don't have to use it. You can also just cook the fruit down until it's the texture you want for jam and skip the pectin. Once you decide about the pectin, stir in your sugar. I used two cups of sugar to four cups of fruit. Most of the recipes I read had at least one cup of sugar per cup of fruit. This seemed crazy sweet to me, so I cut the sugar in half, stirred it in, and tasted it. It was perfect. So just add sugar to taste.
6. While your jam is cooking down, you need to sterilize your jars. I picked up basic mason jars at the grocery store for less than a dollar a piece. You can sterilize them by running them through the dishwasher, or stick them in a pot and boil them for a while. If you do, make sure you get the water to a rolling boil and leave them in for several minutes. We don't want any botulism! I also boiled the spoon I used for stirring and the tongs I used for removing the jars. Leave the jars in the water (or dishwasher) until you're ready to fill them.
8. Once the jam looks and tastes the way you want it to, spoon the hot jam into the sterilized jars. Don't fill them all the way to the top. Put the lids on tightly and turn them upside down on a towel. Let them stay like that for a couple of hours, then turn them over and leave them alone until they're cool. As they cool, the lids will pull in and create a vacuum seal. If a jar does not seal properly, put it in the refrigerator and use it first. The others can go on a shelf and should last a good six months. Of course, once you open a jar, you'll want to store it in the fridge.
That's it! It's really easy and fun. Oh, and the loquat jam? Delicious!