A recurring problem I’ve been facing here in Germany is that my fruit and vegetables go bad really, really quickly, due to a combination of crappy refridgerator and cheap low-quality food. I go to the Netto (a low-cost supermarket) near work every day after I leave to pick up ingredients for dinner, and they’ll usually be selling a package of fruit at a price too tempting to leave.
And so it was that I found myself with a 500g box of Johannisbeeren rot, redcurrants, in my fridge for a week. I’d been putting them in my other dishes to add some tartness and visual interest but there’s only so much of that you can do before fried noodles with berries becomes berries with fried noodle. They were too sour to eat large amounts of on their own, and I wasn’t sure what else to do with them. As the week neared its end I got a bit worried about how long it would take to get rid of them. Suddenly I remembered:
I’d been wanting some anyway to eat at breakfast, so jam it was. I did a bit of research on making jams at home and the consensus seems to be that proper canning equipment is a must if you don’t want to be poisoned by the fruits of your labor. There was some stuff about boiling the jar before use (which I didn’t do), and I think the pectin you usually add is also supposed to help lengthen the jam’s shelf-life. So my jam has neither preservatives, a proper jar, or an airtight cover, but I’ve been eating from my jam for a week now and haven’t died yet, although I am trying to use it up as quickly as possible by covering other types of fruit in it, eating it with potatoes etc. Imitate me at your own risk.
I didn’t put enough honey into my jam initially and it was almost as tart as the raw berries.
Short-lived homemade jam
- a lot of fruit, enough to fill up to 2/3 of a pot (I used redcurrants and some shredded pieces of red date – they added a lot of interest to the final jam, which was nice)
- honey or sugar, to taste
You will also need a jar. Preferably glass. Preferably specially made for canning, with a brand-new lid. The only jar I had around was one that formerly contained sauce hollandaise, and it didn’t have a lid so I used cling wrap… I’m violating food safety regulations by the dozen here. IMITATE ME AT YOUR OWN RISK and read up on what the proper way to can jams is.
Directions (step-by-step pictures at the bottom)
- Get rid of stems, wash berries well and discard any obviously spoiling pieces.
- In a soup pot or similar, heat up berries until boiling. Be warned that the froth might spill over if you put in too much fruit – 2/3 full is a safe amount. Also, I had a hunch that using ceramic ware instead of metal would help with the taste, but I honestly don’t know enough about cooking to tell you if this is true.
- Bring heat down, wait for froth to subside, then stir in honey. You will need more honey than you think you do, especially if the fruit itself is sour. If you want a less sweet jam, add less, obviously.
- Simmer, just barely boiling, for at least 30 minutes. I ended up doing 70 min or so. Stirring once in a while helps dislodge frothy bits that get stuck. As far as I can tell, the duration of simmering just determines how thick your jam will be. Without pectin it’s going to be nowhere as thick as store-bought jam, but don’t be too disappointed because now we are going to…
- Decant into a jar, cover in an airtight way, and stick the jar in the fridge. This makes a huge difference in turning the contents of your jar from fruit mush to something that actually looks and feels like jam.
Remember, no preservatives + less sugar = this isn’t going to last anywhere near as long as commercial jam does. Keep it cold, and keep it clean.