Posts Tagged kiwi fruit

The kiwi to no-pectin jam

I more or less stopped using commercial pectin a few years back because I don’t like the firm-set texture, and I don’t like the piles of sugar you need to compensate for the bitterness of the pectin.

But there are fruits that won’t set without added pectin, cherries for example. So each year I bit the bullet as we followed the recipe on the Bernadin pectin box for a couple of big batches of cherry jam, which is probably canning buddy’s must-make jam each year. Bernadin suggests an extraordinary 7 cups of sugar to four of fruit, along with two pouches of liquid pectin. It sets like a rock, and I didn’t mind much anyway. Cherry jam, as I have said before, is simply not my favourite.

But the New York Times transformed my strawberry jam making last year with a recipe that throws a kiwi fruit into the mix, because kiwi contains the pectin that sweet, ripe strawberries don’t. Could we do that for cherries? Would a cherry jam with kiwi turn to syrup, or would it set?

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The result, I am proud to say, is a lovely, soft set, both with sour cherries, and with a mix of sour and sweet. We added a single chopped up kiwi fruit to our generous kilo of cherries and mean 800 grams of sugar (plus the juice of two lemons). Our only mistake was to include every last scrap of kiwi (barring the skin) — next time we’ll cut out the woody bits at the stem as we chop the fruit. The rest of the fruit melts away to nothing as you boil the jam, barring a few intriguing black seeds. But the woody bits turn to pale chunks in the dark red jam, and it doesn’t look quite right. But hey, it’s cherry jam without added pectin, and canning buddy says we could even use less sugar next time, with perhaps a second kiwi to firm up the set.

Me? I haven’t yet opened my jars of cherry jam, and I suspect they will linger in the back of the store cupboard until I finally give up and give them away.

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But I can’t wait to try my twice-failed melon-ginger jam with kiwi rather than with pectin. The syrup I ended up with last time was perfect for poaching peaches or apricots, but it wasn’t jam.

Any other no-pectin tips out there?

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Spendidly special strawberries

Strawberries are a slightly quirky fruit — not the best jam for the beginner — because they don’t contain much pectin and have this distressing tendency to turn to syrup rather than to jam. But my last strawberry jam, a last-minute marriage of strawberries, rhubarb and mint, was amazingly delicious, with a rich, red glow, a beautiful, soft set and a delicate taste of mint. Could I repeat that magic? Can I get a strawberry jam to set without using bought pectin, which I try to avoid because I don’t like the texture it offers.

Cue a recipe from the New York Times last year, which suggests adding a pectin-rich kiwi fruit to the mix. We made two batches with mint and one with lavender, and wow are these yummy. Lovely soft set, deep red color, beautiful fresh taste. The first jam was a little sweet, so we doubled the lemon for the second batch as we jammed our way through a generous eight pounds of fruit. For the first batch, we put the sprigs of mint in at the start, and fished them out at the end, as per the recipe. For the second we chopped the mint up really fine and threw it in at the end. I think the taste is better that way. The boil was far less than the 35-40 minutes the NYT says it will be.

The only problem: Our three batches of jam, two using three pounds of fruit (and three cups of sugar) and one with two pounds of fruit and two cups of sugar, produced a can’t-divide-by-two 11 jars. “There will be blood on the streets,” I muttered, before canning buddy graciously allowed me to take the extra jar, given that I picked the fruit, and will give a couple of jars to the friend who took me out there, helped me pick and drove me home.

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Here’s our take on the recipe.

Strawberry mint (or lavender) jam)
3 pounds strawberries, hulled and sliced
3 cups sugar
1 kiwi fruit, peeled and diced
Juice of 1 (or 2) lemons
4 sprigs of mint (or lavender), stems removed and leaves chopped finely

Put the strawberries in a big pan with the sugar, lemon juice and kiwi fruit, and leave them to sit while you prepare the next batches of fruit. (The recipe says at least 2 hours, we didn’t have that sort of time, and it didn’t seem to matter.) Heat, gently until the sugar dissolves, and then at a rolling boil until it sets. Stir often — this jam stays liquid (and very foamy) for a longish while, and the foam suddenly vanishes and it starts to set. Take it off the boil, stir in the chopped herbs, wait for 2-3 minutes to let the fruit settle a bit, and then bottle in sterilized jars. Water bath for 10 minutes.

The very detailed  recipe says boil the jam until it reaches 210F on a candy thermometer, but I’ve never managed to make the candy thermometer idea work. Instead, we test our jam for set by putting a small blob on a cold plate and seeing if you can draw your finger through and leave a gap. But you also get a good idea from how easy it is to stir. And even a syrupy jam works just fine with plain yogurt, which is my preferred way of using up my jams anyway.

Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Boring, I know, but it’s another drop-dead delicious jam.

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