These sweet spreads are a class of foods with many textures. Jelly is a semi-solid mixture that is clear and firm enough to hold its shape. Other spreads are made from crushed or ground fruit:
• Jam-also holds its shape, but is less firm than jelly. Jam is made from crushed or chopped fruit and sugar.
• Conserves-like jam but are made from a mixture of fruits, especially citrus fruits, an nuts, raisins, or coconut.
• Preserves-made of small, whole fruits or uniform pieces of fruit, in a clear, thick, slightly jellied syrup.
• Marmalades-soft fruit jellies with small pieces of fruit or citrus peel evenly suspended in a transparent jelly.
• Fruit butter-made from fruit pulp that has been cooked with sugar until thickened to a spreadable consistency.
For proper texture, jellied fruit products require the correct combination of four main ingredients: fruit, pectin, acid, and sugar. The fruit gives each spread its unique flavor and color. It also supplies the water to dissolve the rest of the necessary ingredients and furnish some or all of the pectin and acid. Good quality, flavorful fruits make the best jellied products.
Pectins are substances in fruits that form a gel if they are in the right combination with acid and sugar. All fruits contain some pectin. Apples, crabapples, gooseberries, and some plums and grapes usually contain enough natural pectin to form a gel. Other fruits such as strawberries, cherries, and blueberries contain little pectin and must be combined with fruits high in pectin or with commercial pectin products to obtain gels. Before fully ripened, fruit has less pectin. Because fully ripened fruit has less pectin, one-fourth of the fruit used in making jellies without adding pectin should be underripe.
The proper level of acidity is critical to gel formation. If there is too little acid, the gel will never set; if there is too much acid, the gel will lose liquid. For fruits low in acids, add lemon juice or other acid as directed. Commercial pectin products contain acids that help to ensure gelling.
Sugar serves as a preserving agent, contributes flavor, and aids gelling. Cane and beet sugar are the usual ingredients in jelly or jam. Corn syrup and honey may be used to replace part of the sugar in recipes, but too much will mask the fruit flavor and alter the gel structure. Use tested recipes for replacing sugar with honey and corn syrup. Do not try to reduce the amount of sugar in traditional recipes. Too little sugar prevents gelling and may allow yeast and mold to grow.
Jams and jellies that contain modified pectin, gelatin, or gums may be made with non-caloric sweeteners. Jams with less sugar than usual also may be made with concentrated fruit pulp, which contains less liquid and less sugar. There are two types of modified pectin available for home use. One gels with one-third less sugar. The other is a low-methoxhyl pectin with requires a source of calcium for gelling. To prevent spoilage, jars of these products must be processed longer in a boiling water bath canner. Recipes and processing times provided with each modified pectin product must be followed carefully. The proportions of acids and fruits should not be altered, as spoilage may result.
There are two basic methods of making jams and jellies. The standard method, which does not require added pectin, works best with fruits naturally high in pectin. The other method, which requires the use of commercial liquid or powdered pectin, is much quicker. The gelling ability of various pectins differs. To make uniformly gelled products, be sure to add the quantities of commercial pectins to specific fruits as instructed on each package. Overcooking may break down pectin and prevent proper gelling. When using either method, make one batch at a time, according to the recipe. Stir constantly while cooking to prevent burning. Recipes are developed for specific jar sizes. If jellies are filled into larger jars, excessively soft products may result.
For those interested in learning more about making jams and jellies, there will be a workshop at the Trigg County Extension Office on Tuesday evening, August 5, 2014 from 4:00-6:00 PM. This will be a hands-on class where participants will actually try their hand at jelly-making and take home examples of their work. The cost of the class is $5.00 to cover supplies. Please contact the Trigg County Extension Office at 270-522-3269 to register for the class before August 1, 2014.
Refrigerated Grape Spread
(made with gelatin)
2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin powder
1 (24-oz.) bottle unsweetened grape juice
2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice
2 tablespoons liquid low-calorie sweetener
In a saucepan, soften the gelatin in the grape and lemon juices. Bring juice mixture to a full rolling boil to dissolve gelatin. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in sweetener. Fill jars quickly, leaving 1⁄4-inch headspace. Store in refrigerator and use within 4 weeks.
Yield: 3 half-pints
3 1⁄2 pounds ripe plums
3 pounds ripe Concord grapes
1 cup water
8 1⁄2 cups sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon butter or margarine to reduce foaming (optional)
1 (1 3⁄4-ounce) box powdered pectin
Wash and pit plums; do not peel. Thoroughly crush the plums and grapes, one layer at a time, in a saucepan. Add water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 10 minutes. Strain juice through a jelly bag or double layer of cheesecloth.
Measure sugar and set aside. Combine 6 1⁄2 cups of juice with butter and pectin in a large saucepan. Bring to a hard boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Add the sugar and return to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, quickly skim off foam, and fill jars, leaving 1⁄4-inch head space. Adjust lids and process.
Processing time: Boiling Water Canner—Hot Pack: process half-pints for 10 minutes.
Yield: About 10 half pints
2 cups peeled, cored, and finely chopped pears (about 2 pounds)
1 cup peeled, cored, and finely chopped apples
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 1⁄2 cups sugar
2/3 cup bottled lemon juice
6 ounces liquid pectin
Crush apples and pears in a large saucepan; stir in cinnamon. Thoroughly mix sugar and lemon juice with fruits and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Immediately stir in pectin. Bring to a full rolling boil; boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, quickly skim off foam and fill jars, leaving 1⁄4-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process.
Yield: About 7 to 8 half-pints
Processing Time: Boiling Water Canner—Hot Pack: process half-pints or pints 10 minutes
For more information about this or any other subject, contact Cecelia Hostilo at the Trigg County Extension Office by calling 522-3269. Information and recipes for this article was obtained from the Cooperative Extension Services of the University of Kentucky’s publication “Preparing and Canning Jams and Jellies” reviewed and updated by Sandra Bastin, Ph.D, R.D., Extension Specialist in Food and Nutrition.
Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.