Wouldn't you know it? Immediately after I did all that whining about no good peaches in Maine the other day, I got an email from my local farm store saying they had--guess what?--peaches! (Dare I complain about lack of apricots in hopes that a rare batch of same will appear from nowhere??) I ran right over and bought a big bag full and stayed up late making jam.
See how gorgeous it is?
I've been experimenting with no-added-pectin jam since last summer--actually, experimenting is the wrong word, since that implies study design, a hypothesis, a control batch and record-keeping, so let's say instead that I've been playing around with no-added-pectin jam and my conclusion, thus far is: (added) pectin, who needs it? My cynical mind assumes it's an industrial by-product of some kind and would otherwise be costly to dispose of, so instead it's packaged and sold as essential.
My general rule of thumb when making no-added-pectin jams is: 4 cups crushed fruit to 4 cups sugar (I use organic sugar, which works fine, despite not being white-white. I would advise against using turbinado, which renders the jam ugly brown and, apparently, the molasses has an effect on the jelling). For non-sour fruits I add also 1/4 cup lemon juice.
Sometimes I mix it all together and let it macerate for an hour or so before boiling. Sometimes I bring just the crushed fruit to a boil, then add the (pre-warmed in a pan in a low oven) sugar.
Some fruit only takes 5-10 minutes of boiling (raspberries, blackberries), some takes longer. I try to avoid the 30 to 40-minute boils recommended for other fruits, because that just seems cooked to death (also, I prefer a softer, less jelly-like, jam). The peach called for 40 minutes of boil, but between 15 and 20 it went from a beautiful golden color to the dark orange you see here (I kept the skins on, which added to the darker color as well, I believe) and started to burn to the pan. My preferred test-for-doneness method is to place a couple of saucers in the freezer, dollop a spoonful of jam onto one of them as it seems to be getting close to done, place it back in the freezer for a minute or two, then push my finger across the surface. If it wrinkles, it's done. If not, boil a few more minutes and repeat.
Some variations on the theme:
With strawberry this year, I had intended to make three batches, but discovered after I had crushed 4 cups of fruit in each of three pans, that I was short by about two cups of sugar. Instead I divided the third batch and between the first two. The down side was that every time it came to a rolling boil, it would overflow, so it never really got to temperature. I also tried straining out the fruit and just boiling the juice/sugar mixture for 20 or 25 minutes, then adding the fruit for another five or ten, to keep a fresher flavor. Still I never got up to full boil long, and ended up with a saucier jam (which I am totally fine with, but it may not be gift-worthy).
With blueberry, I used 6 cups whole berries to 3 1/2 cups sugar. The boiling time was probably about 15 or 20 minutes (woefully I don't take notes!) rather than the recommended 30. Last year my blueberry (using the 4:4 ratio) was way too stiff; this year's I think came out better.
My best and favorite jam is 4 Berry: one cup each raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries. We're having an off blackberry year (they're an every-other-year crop), so I'm not sure if I'll be able to come up with enough of them for a batch this year, but if I do, it will probably be my last batch of jam, and then I hope we'll have enough to see us through to next summer.
For years I tried to make low-sugar jams with special low-sugar pectin, but was never pleased with the results--bland flavor, mushy texture, dull color, short shelf life once opened. I was afraid I would poison my family with it. I think the 4:4 fruit:sugar ratio is slightly less sugar than some jam with added pectin recipes, but it is sugary, if that bothers you. Then again, it's only meant to be eaten in small quantities.
What are your jam secrets?