I grew up in the Azores with a pantry packed full of homemade jam. My grandfather had an orchard, so we had a variety of fresh seasonal fruit that was usually far too much for us to eat on our own. My grandfather was a pretty generous guy, so we normally gave out lots of fruit to family and friends. Fig delivery was my job. I remember getting up on lazy summer days and heading out to the back kitchen (we had a second kitchen where the messy stuff like frying fish, baking in the wood burning oven and of course fruit sorting, would happen), and my grandmother would have her large handmade wicker basket by her side; sorting figs into plates for me to deliver to family and friends. Quite often, there’d be family visiting from North America during the summer and I loved the look on their faces when they’d see me walking in with a large plate full of ripe fresh delicious figs for their breakfast.
One other thing that often happened at home with all this fresh fruit was jam. My mom made jam from loquat, apples, wild berries, figs, oranges and more. My favourite jam was apple and fig. I think she even made some jars of both fruits mixed.
I had never really considered making jam, but I recently watched a show on Tastemade where one of the show hosts has a whole series of episodes on making strawberry jam. He explains the difference between different preserves like jam, jelly and marmalade. He then goes into how to pick the best fruit, how to cook the fruit and finally how to can the final product. These episodes were inspiring because they gave me the foundation I needed for jam-making. Once you have this foundation, you can play with different fruits and flavours to make your own custom creations. In my case, I was in the mood for apple pie jam… because let’s face it, apple pie is awesome…so why not put it in a jam. You can’t go wrong with some cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.
I discovered that jam isn’t difficult to make, but it is time-consuming. It doesn’t save you time or money, but it’s so incredibly rewarding to hear the pop of the lid on your own homemade jar of jam when you open it. This jam tastes amazing and it’s nice to know exactly what went into the jar (almost all fruit). It’s a labour of love! Along with learning the jam-making process, I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that canning isn’t all that difficult… so guess what??? I’ll be canning more stuff in the near future.
I did have to try it twice to get it right. My first batch was sweeter and thicker than I was hoping for. The consistency and flavour of the second batch was spot on and I was so happy with the final product. Although there’s a bit of effort involved, I really do encourage you to try this at home. I think you’ll be happy watching your family or friends try a taste of this fruit gold made by you!
Smear a little on a crusty piece of toast … and eat well, friends!
- 2 lbs (about 2½ lbs before slicing) of Honeycrisp apples seeded, peeled and chopped into equal size slivers (see photo). Any apple that's appropriate for apple pie will work well for this recipe.
- ½ cup pure apple juice
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ nutmeg tsp
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice
- In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients well until the the apples are completely coated.
- Set the bowl aside for 45 minutes.
- Run your canning jars or mason jars through the dishwasher to make sure they're very clean.
- Set aside the screw bands and place the flat lids in a bowl of warm water (to soften the rubber seal before canning).
- Place a wide large pan on the stove and set the temperature to high.
- Pour in the apple mixture.
- Before the apple mixture starts to bubble, place large deep pot ¾ full of water on another burner and turn the temperature to medium high.
- With a wooden spoon (or any heat resistant spoon), start mixing the apple mixture in a round and round motion. Keep stirring through-out the entire cooking process.
- The mixture will reach boiling point. You'll know you've reached the proper cooking temperature when the mixture reaches a rolling boil that you can't stop with the stirring action.
- Keep stirring! If you're using an industrial oven (I'm not), you might need to lower the temperature slightly to avoid splatters.
- If you need to step away, lower the temperature to medium, answer the door/call and then come back, raise the temp back to high and keep stirring.
- The apple will go through three stages.
- During the first stage (first 8 minutes or so), the apples are still crisp and the sauce starts to heat up and reaches a boiling point.
- During the next stage (next 8 minutes or so), the sauce starts to thicken a little and the apples start to soften. At this stage, using a hand mixer, carefully (it's really hot) shred some of the apples. I personally like this constancy. Feel free to shred it completely or don't shred them at all to have more of the pieces in the final product. The sauce will start thickening. Keep stirring.
- During the last stage, the apples will be soft and the sauce will thicken more. This is a critical stage. At around 24 minutes or so, start to pay extra attention at the sauce. Once the sauce turns into a very thick syrup and you can see the bottom for a couple of seconds when running the spoon across the pan bottom, you've reached the right consistency.
- The exact time for the instructions in the previous step varies based on the heat your burner produces and how thick you want your jam. If you prefer it thicker, let it boil another minute or so. Mine took precisely 27 minutes all together.
- Move the pan off the stove and place your jars near by. Place a wide mouthed funnel in the first jar.
- Note, the jam is very hot, so be cautious with the apple mixture and the filled hot jars.
- Using a ladle scoop the jam into the funnel to fill the jar. You should have ¼ to ½ inch of headspace between the top of the jam and the rim of the jar. Too much space is not good because the lid might end up oxidizing if there's too much air in the jar.
- Fill remaining jars.
- If you don't have enough jam to fill the last jar to the top, leave that one out for the refrigerator and more immediate consumption.
- Using clean tongs, place the flat lids on the jars. The tongs ensure the flat lids and seals are kept clean.
- Now screw in the top part of the lid for each jar until it's quite snug but not overly tight. I good rule of thumb is to twist the top of the lid without using your pinky. This way, your grip is less strong and you'll end up tightening the lid a little less.
- Uncover your large deep pot and using long tongs, place a tea towel in the hot water to cover the bottom. This is used to avoid having the jars shatter during the boiling process while hitting the bottom.
- Using jar tongs (see pictures), pickup one jar at-a-time and place the jars in the large pot of hot water and on the towel covered bottom.
- The water should be a couple of inches above the jars. If not, add water.
- Raise the temperature to high and bring the water to a rolling boil. Lower the temperature if necessary.
- Once the water reaches the boiling point, start your timer for 10 minutes. The jars must remain in boiling water for the full 10 minutes.
- Using the jar tongs, carefully remove each jar and place it on a wood cutting board (avoid granite or marble counter-tops to keep the glass from shattering while it's hot).
- After a few minutes, you will hear a pop. This is good and it means your canning process worked. You should not be able to press down make the lid click up and down. If this is the case, the lid has not properly sealed. Consume the unsealed jar first. The jam will be fine refrigerated for up to a month (if you can make it last that long).
- Let the jars cool untouched on the cutting board over-night.
- The properly sealed jam jars can sit on a pantry shelf for up to a year.
When working with the hot jam and filled jars, be extremely careful not to burn yourself.