At the hotel, we do a hell of a lot of tea covers over the holidays, and the holiday tea menu in general is a big deal. Of all the years we’ve served tea, this jam may be the most loved (and the recipe the most requested), so we’re going to make it today. Christmas has come and gone, but thankfully this jam can be enjoyed anytime at all.
I was never really into making preserves until the past few years or so. It was a job I always wanted to avoid as a young pastry cook, even though it’s a very simple one. I don’t exactly know what changed; a sense of frugality? a desire to explore a new area of pastry? Whatever it was, I have been a born again jam maker. I call this recipe Christmas jam because I tend to serve it at Christmas and I’m super good at naming stuff. The baking spices and the use of cranberry and red currant create an unmistakable holiday flavor profile, and I must say I think this makes a pretty good gift.
If you’re new to jam making or just love reading about food science, might I suggest you read my post on fruit preserves before getting started? If that doesn’t sound too appealing to you, that’s cool. You can still make top notch jam with this recipe alone.
To properly set your jam you’re going to need pectin. Although all fruit naturally has pectin in it, I use a commercial pectin too, which speeds the cooking process and preserves the brightness and natural acidity of the fruit.
I use frozen fruit for this recipe, but you could use fresh if you wanted as well.
Monitoring the cooking temperature of the preserve is the first benchmark of knowing when it is ready to set. The preserve must reach a minimum temperature of around 221F/105C to have the potential to set as a gel. While it’s easy enough to use a thermometer to check the temp., a preserve at 221F/105C doesn’t always indicate a finished product, so it’s always a good idea to perform a “set test.” A set test uses a small sample of the cooked preserve and rapidly cools it to see if it has the properties of a finished gel. We’ll look at how it’s done in the method.
Chances are, you’ll want to store your jam in canning jars. Ball jars are pretty standard issue for canning and jamming, and you can find just about any size you might want.
105g red currants
398g sugar A
104g sugar B
28g apple pectin
2g black pepper
14g lemon juice
Combine the sugar A, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, and fruit and let macerate for a minimum of 1hr. up to overnight.
Before you get started cooking your jam, clean and sanitize the jam jars you plan to use. I like to run them alone in the dishwasher and keep them there until I need to use them. If the lids have a heat seal on them, don’t place them in the dishwasher or they won’t seal properly when you get them on the filled jars. Clean the lids with soapy water, dry them and keep them covered.
Combine the apple pectin and sugar B, and whisk it together thoroughly. Any clumps of pectin will gel into lumps when added to the fruit if it isn’t fully mixed into the sugar.
Whisk the pectin/sugar mixture into the macerated fruit.
Heat the mixture gently, stirring often, to fully dissolve the sugar mixture. While the mixture is heating, put a sheet pan or plate in the freezer to use for a set test.
Bring the mix up to a boil, stirring constantly with a spatula to avoid burning the jam on the bottom of the pot. Given the quantity of pectin in this recipe, by the time the mixture comes to a boil it should be thick and ready to test.
Take a small amount of the jam mix and place it on the frozen pan or plate. Let it cool for a minute or two in the fridge and test the texture. If it has the consistency of syrup, it isn’t ready, but once it begins to form a skin and wrinkle at the edges, you have yourself some proof positive that the jam will set.
Add the lemon juice to the jam and heat the mixture once more, while stirring, just until it boils.
The strawberries and currants will have broken down through the cooking process, but the cranberries will mostly remain whole. You can finish the jam as is or otherwise blend it to create a smooth, homogenized mix. I generally blend it.
Pour the hot jam into the cleaned and dry jars, almost to the rim. Seal them with the lid immediately.
Place all of the filled jars into a stockpot lined with a tea towel to keep direct heat off of the jars. Fill the stockpot with water until it comes about halfway up the jars. Bring the water to a simmer and place a lid on the stockpot. Simmer the jars for about 10min, then remove them from the heat and let them cool.