A whisper from the woods

Food for Thought, November 2023

Nov 6, 2023

Preserving Food For The Year: My First Attempt at Making Jam

We are slowly welcoming a new season. Summer is definitely behind us now, and the warm blue sky gives way to Autumn’s chill and heavy clouds.

This means, among other things, that it is time to prepare for the coming warm meals and comforting soups and porridges.

What we eat throughout the year should reflect our needs. As an example, Summer fruits and vegetables (think watermelon and cucumber) tend to have a high water content, helping us keep hydrated; Winter crops like citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, known for their precious assistance in preventing colds. Starchy vegetables are another example; they are calorically dense allow us to be fed during Winter’s cold and unproductive months.

Wrapping up the growing season also means preserving a lot of what was grown in the previous months; this way, we’ll be able to enjoy it throughout Winter and avoid wasting all of that goodness.

I am new to growing food, there’s a lot I have to learn and plenty I have never heard of. Still, I share the things I am learning along the way.

There are a lot of ways to preserve food. We can pickle it, dry it, of course we can freeze it, and we can make jam!

I have been wanting to give making jam a try. Some of the available supermarket options give us a long list of unpronounceable ingredients and most of these options just have too much sugar.

Adding a load of sugar is how we give jam such a long shelf-life. When making it ourselves, we can control the amount of sugar that goes in, but we shouldn’t forget that this product is not going to last as long as the supermarket-high-in-sugar alternatives.

Having this said, jam, homemade or otherwise, is rich in added sugar and very calorically dense, so it should be eaten in moderation. If you end up with too many jars of jam – tempting you every time you open the cupboard – you can give them away.

Pumpkins and quinces are very local and in season now, so that’s what I used in my first attempt at making jam.

I learned there at many ways to make jam, so do your research and pick your favourite. I used two different methods for the quince and pumpkin jam.

 

Quince Jam

This method makes jam very easy to make. It results in a smooth and soft quince jam, unlike the traditional Portuguese “Marmelada” which is hard enough to be sliced and keep its shape. If this suits you, keep reading.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1.7 kilograms of quince (peeled and seeds removed)
  • 1 kilogram of brown sugar

Preparation:

  1. Once you’ve peeled and removed all the seeds from the quinces, cut them into cubes roughly the same size (around 2 cm pieces).
  2. Add the cubed quince to a large pressure cooker with the sugar.
  3. Take the pan (uncovered) to the stove and cook the quince on medium-high heat, until de sugar has melted. It should take 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Once the sugar is completely melted and starting to boil, cover and seal the pressure cooker. Once it starts steaming, cook for 20 minutes on medium heat.
  5. Release the steam from the pressure cooker.
  6. Transfer the cooked quince to a blender and blend until very smooth. If you only have a hand-blender, you can use it, too.
  7. Once you reach your desired consistency, you can transfer the jam to some containers. Leave to cool completely. The jam will harden as it cools; as I previously noted, the final consistency is smooth, thick, and soft.

 

 

Pumpkin Jam

Unlike the above method, this takes a considerable amount of time. Plus, it will require a few takes for you to learn what point is your favourite when it comes to the jam’s consistency. Have fun, and take notes!

 

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 kilograms of pumpkin (peeled and seeds removed)
  • 1 kilogram of brown sugar
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ tbsp of cinnamon
  • 60 grams of roasted almonds, finely crushed

Preparation:

  1. Once you’ve peeled and removed all the seeds from the pumpkin, cut it into cubes roughly the same size (around 2 cm pieces). Don’t throw away the pumpkin’s skin, pulp, and seeds. The skin and seeds can be seasoned and roasted, and the pulp incorporated into soups or sauces.
  2. Add the cubed pumpkin to a large pan with the sugar, lemon, and cinnamon.
  3. Take the pan to the stove and cook the pumpkin on medium-high heat, until de sugar has melted. It should take 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Once the sugar is completely melted and starting to boil, reduce the heat to low. Cook on a low fire until the pumpkin is soft. This step took me 1 hour and 10 minutes. Keep checking on it and stirring the pot to prevent any burning.
  5. Once the pumpkin is cooked through, smash it using a fork. This step is time-consuming but it will pay off! I like pumpkin jam to have a rough consistency, with pumpkin fibers running through. If you prefer it smooth or would rather go for the quicker version, use a blender like explained above.
  6. Once all the pumpkin pieces are mashed, add roughly chopped roasted almonds and return the pan to the stove.
  7. This next step takes time, be patient! The way you see you’ve reached the desired point is by scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. The moment you can create a rim that stays put, your jam is ready. For me, it took 3 hours on a low heat.
  8. At this point, you can remove the lemon peel and add the jam to sterilized or very well-cleaned jars.

This recipe is relatively low in sugar, which compromises its shelf-life. Store it in the fridge and, if you want to go the extra mile, vacuum seal your jars. You can do this by adding the well-closed jars to a pan, without touching each other. Fill the pan with water until it reaches half the jar’s height. Let the water come to a boil and let it bubble for a couple of minutes. Then, turn off the stove. You can leave the jars to cool inside the pan, with the water.

I hope these recipes will help you on your first jam attempt. As I said, I am new to this, so if you use other methods or have other recipes, please share them with us in the comment section below. This way we can learn together.

 

If you make any of these recipes and share it on social media, tag us so that we can celebrate your cooking together!

Global Tree Initiative | @globaltreeinitiative

Kind Dish | @kind.dish

 

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