Wednesday, 22 July 2009

What to Do with Failed Jam?

I've been making jam for quite a few years now. One of the main reasons I started making my own jam was because I wanted to put in MUCH less sugar than was found in most jams at the time. I've developed a number of recipes that use much less sugar than usual, a number of which have already been posted, and more of which will be posted in the future.

However, for jam to set it requires a certain balance between the acids, sugars and pectins in the mixture, not to mention experience in determining when the mixture is sufficiently cooked to set. Since I insist on skating so close to the line with the amount of sugar and experimenting in general, I do have a failure or two almost every year. And since there are a lot of amateur jam-makers out there at the moment, I suppose that at some point this summer other people are going to find themselves forlornly contemplating a lovely little row of laboriously home-canned - fruit syrup! So what do you do with 6 or 8 jars of the stuff? Here are some ideas.

Last year I tried making pear jelly. It almost worked. Pears are notoriously hard to get to set, and consequently you won't find many recipes for pear jelly. Un-gelled jelly is particularly vexing, since the ingredients are more concentrated and the work is greater than for jam. On the other hand, my pear non-jelly was delicious used as a syrup to flavour club soda or other fizzy water; in some ways I enjoyed it more than I would have on toast. I also used it as the sweetener in a number of apple crisps. In that case, the syrup was mixed with the fruit instead of sugar, and the crumble topping had the usual sugar added.

There's always pouring a tablespoon or so over vanilla or other complementary ice cream, or mixing a spoonful in with your otherwise plain breakfast yogurt; unset jams will work as well as jellies for those. Fruit syrups, whether not-jelly or not-jam go on pancakes, waffles or oatmeal. Use them to sweeten fruit smoothies. Use them as a glaze for roasting meat, or mix with vinegar, a bit of tomato paste and spices to use as a barbeque sauce.

Jam or jelly often goes into trifle, and if it's runny enough to soak right into the cake I would think that would actually be a bonus. I also have a cake recipe made with unset jam (or set jam if you have it to spare) instead of sugar which I will post later this week. (Done.) Yes, I do find myself with some unset strawberry jam as a matter of fact. Strawberries are another fruit that often don't want to set even when full sugar is used, and mine just wouldn't and didn't. (Actually, I'm pretty sure I just didn't cook it long enough, drat.)

So... what would you do with failed jam or jelly?

14 comments:

Ohly Smokes said...

Nice post. Was wondering the same thing myself. I like the idea of adding it to club soda.

I have a nice batch of unset strawberry jam despite using the full amount of sugar. Good to now that it is just me!

SherGibson said...

Hey I just recently had a batch of both straberry jam and seedless raspberry jam not set - If this happen and I am not happy with it (this year the raspberry - I like running strawberry jam/sauce)I just cook it again until it sets (sometimes days later) and rejar it. It usually sets if you boil it long enough. This year with my raspberry jam I only added 1 3/4c sugar and used a certo light pack and after a failed try, I remade it and it set like cement! with no extra sugar - I like it tart!

Marnie said...

A timely post: I've just made two jars of black cap syrup (on purpose, not failed jam!).

Our thoughts seem to be running the same way -- this syrup is very nice over ice cream and yogurt. I'd also envisioned pancakes, and sponge cake with berries/syrup/whipped cream or ice cream. I also plan to try some in club soda. I tried a spoonful of syrup in my coffee -- can't recommend it!

The one thing I did that you haven't suggested yet is to give a jar to a friend. I also hope to make more syrup with berries I've frozen (excellent year for black caps), to give to family members when I visit.

Ferdzy said...

Ohly, it's definitely not just you. Strawberries are practically pectinless, and even when it works strawberry jam is usually pretty soft.

Sher, I thought about opening it up and cooking it longer - but I talked myself out of it - I'll find enough to do with it, and I'm awfully lazy.

Marnie, what are black caps? Blackberries? Black raspberries? I'm not familiar with the term. And I'll note that coffee isn't the way to go.

City Girl said...

I just tried my hand at strawberry jam - first time ever canning - and it's much more like a strawberry sauce. (http://greenadventuresofacitygirl.blogspot.com/2009/06/jam-adventure.html) We still put it on toast, it just soaks in a little. But one think I've found I LOVE to do with it is mix a Tbsp with a bit of red-wine vinegar - it makes an amazing strawberry vinagrette!! It was also an amazing addition to some fresh berries and ice for a nice smoothie.

City Girl said...

Oh, also, since you said you like to make lower sugar recipes - a friend of mine just passed on a link to some SUGAR FREE pectin! Just in case it's useful...
http://www.pomonapectin.com/

Marnie said...

Black caps are black raspberries (not the same as blackberries). They grow wild and are yummy but very seedy.

For anyone not familiar with black raspberries:

http://livingindryden.org/2007/07/black_caps.html

YouTube has video of everything!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95Zi3vFVW64

Lynnita said...

I just had a black currant jelly failure of a different sort: it's so stiff, I need a carving knife to get it out of the jar! Any suggestions for rescuing it?

Ferdzy said...

City Girl, thanks for reminding me of the vinaigrette thing. I often add a bit of apple-butter to vinaigrette, and yeah, runny jam would work well too. As for the pectin, I've heard of Pomonas. I've mostly used the more readily available brands of pectin, and pretty much gave up using it because I had such bad luck with it. (Would NOT follow the recipe, lol.) I might give Pomona another try though.

Marnie; Ah! We actually have some growing on the property then. Not ripe yet as they are heavily shaded but I shall watch them.

Lynnita; Yeah, currants are the anti-strawberry, they are just packed with pectin. Once you've got it pried out you could try cutting it in squares, dipping it in chocolate and calling it candy. Is it that firm? Also look for recipes for Cumberland sauce, which calls for currant jelly. It gets melted again into the other ingredients, and served as a sauce with meats. Lamb? Duck? Fruit pastes are also often served with firm ripe cheeses and crackers, or with soft creamy cheeses like mascarpone for dessert.

Marnie said...

I came back to report: I made my first-ever jam today! Black raspberry jam, er, "preserves", just two jars. It hasn't totally cooled/set yet but it tastes good and looks very pretty. Extremely seedy -- I think the syrup is still the way to go here. I was afraid I'd mess up the quantities if I tried straining out some of the seeds, and if you strain them all out of your jam, well, that's just syrup ...

Ferdzy said...

Sounds great, Marnie. Yer first jam is very exciting - once you've determined that the thing is indeed possible you'll never look back!

I've never minded seeds in raspberry jam. Lets you know they really were raspberries. If they're awfully seedy, I can see removing some of them I suppose.

Jen Boro said...

I am new to blogging and was wondering how you set up your index the way you have. Thanks, Jennifer
Feel free to email me directly if you get a minute. jenboro@hotmail.com

temptressyarn said...

I just had this happen with strawberry-rhubarb jelly. It's syrup, despite hitting 221 on the thermometer, and doing a freezer test which showed it was going to set.

A friend of mine uses syrups as the sugar to make home made flavored marshmallows in the fall. They are heavenly!

Jennifer said...

Thank you so much for your wisdom. My ginger-grape jam is a syrup...despite the liquid cement suggestions found all over the internet. Apparently, these suggestions are intended for someone who actually understands liquid pectin....however, all your ideas make my concoction look like the perfect base for all your suggestions.