5@5 - Jam-maker Rachel Saunders
October 26th, 2010
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

‘Tis the season to be canning. The act of "putting up" preserves those summer days past of peaches, tomatoes and strawberries, as well as fall favorites of cranberry and quince long into the impending wintry months.

If anyone knows a thing or two about jamming, it's Rachel Saunders. Saunders is the author of The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, and founder of Blue Chair Fruit - her Oakland-based company that makes jams and marmalades from produce sourced from local organic farmers.

She's found her way into the 5@5 hot seat and is ready to jam out.

Top Five Tips for Jamming: Rachel Saunders

1. Always use a wide nonreactive pan
"When you cook jam or marmalade, one of the main things you are doing is cooking excess moisture out of the mixture. This, along with the sugar and pectin in the mixture, is a major part of what enables the jam to thicken as it cools.

If you have a pan that is not wide enough, your mixture will be too deep and will have to cook much longer in order to lose the requisite amount of moisture. This leads to an overcooked flavor. A wide pan, on the other hand, allows a maximum of evaporation to happen in a minimum of time, keeping the bright flavor of the fruit intact.

My favorite pan is the 11.5-quart Mauviel hammered copper jam pan from France. Its sloping high sides and extremely even heat distribution make it perfect for jam making."

2. Always make a small batch
"This goes along with using a wide nonreactive pan; if your batch is too big, you will have to cook the jam for a very long time in order for the necessary amount of moisture to cook out. One of the best ways to keep the beautiful fresh flavor of fruit is to make small batches at a time; this also allows you to tweak your technique and recipes and reduces the risk of a huge batch that hasn't turned out quite right. It also makes for more variety in your pantry."

3. Always make your flavor adjustments to the room temperature mixture before the final cooking
"Adding your lemon juice and other flavorings at that time helps ensure a balanced flavor in the finished product. The way we perceive flavors changes a lot with temperature, so jam tends to taste quite different when it's hot. When hot, jam tastes simultaneously sweeter and more acidic than it does at room temperature. Tasting your jam mixture at room temperature before you start cooking it is, therefore, the most accurate way of assessing whether it needs more lemon juice or other flavorings. To add lemon juice, stir well to be sure your sugar is dissolved. Then, gradually stir in lemon juice, tasting as you go, until you can just discern the flavor of lemon in the mixture."

4. Always use perfectly ripe fruit; it has the best flavor!
"Although under ripe fruit has the reputation of having more pectin, I believe that the most important thing in any jam is flavor – and under ripe fruit tends to taste under ripe. Perfectly ripe fruit has the perfect amount of pectin and also has the best flavor. Organic local fruit is always best, as it imparts no chemical flavors to the jam. Locally grown fruit is also in season and at the peak of its flavor. If you can, try to taste your fruit before purchasing. The fruit should always be picked ripe. Picking it yourself makes it even more extra-special!"

5. Always measure your fruit and sugar by weight
"Weight is much more exact than volume and will help you ensure success. Saying 'five cups of peach wedges' gives you a lot of room for inexactitude, whereas '5 pounds of peach wedges' does not. At Blue Chair Fruit, we measure everything by weight and get consistently great results."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. lunagrown

    How is it that this article clearly states to use a non-reactive pan, and the writer goes on to tell us her favorite is a hammered copper pan? Copper and Aluminum are the two most reactive pans out there. The best pan for making jam or jelly is a wide mouth stainless steel.

    May 27, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  2. Stella

    Love it! If you like canning, check out this shirt I just got: http://www.etsy.com/listing/58248609/mason-jar-collection-shirt-free-shipping

    October 26, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
  3. Earl Hatleberg

    Y'know, weight vs volume has its own inherent conflicts: if the fruit has more moisture it weighs more; as in wine, less moisture may result in more intense flavor, hense less weight but more volume for best flavor may be indeterminable relative to weight vs volume recipe measurements. You really have to make a judgement about the condition of the fruit before deciding whether to use weight or volume. I suggest having 2 recipes at hand: one based upon weight and one on volume depending on the the amount of rainfall the fruit has had to its advantage in the ripening process...

    October 26, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
  4. Sardonicus

    Tip #6: Ask CNN to focus on stories of hobbies relevant to this century.

    Tip #7: YEESH BIG FRICKING MOLE can be removed quickly and painlessly by your dermatologist.

    October 26, 2010 at 6:49 pm |
    • ddobro2

      Sheesh, another rude and immature comment that has no bearing on the article. You should know that canning is very much popular this century (gasp, even as of this minute), and more importantly, so what if she has a mole? Yeah, we can all see too, you don't need to be immature and make a snarky comment about it. Probably a typical bully during your school years too. I personally found the article very useful.

      October 26, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
    • Dianne Muscarello

      Sardonicus, I'm sorry to inform you, but there are still a lot of people to preserve food at home. This article IS very relevant to this century. Perhaps it is you who needs to broaden your view of the world and reconsider your comments..

      October 26, 2010 at 7:33 pm |
    • Michelle

      Ha, ha!

      October 26, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
      • Michelle

        Actually, I love making Jam. People bring me fruit to make jam. But, its a pain to process sometimes....just ran out of my apricot ginger jam....mmmmm.

        October 26, 2010 at 7:52 pm |
    • OPIE

      With more people going organic and growing their own. not to mention the economy we are in. i find your posting out of touch with reality. i clicked on this article due to the fact i tripled my garden size and now harvesting figs, grapes, tomatoes etc. etc. these tips came just in time before my weekend canning. sorry but you do not speak for the whole group of us new wave of growers and dirt rakers.

      October 26, 2010 at 8:39 pm |
      • OPIE

        .....and to your tip #7 IS FRICKING RUDE, grow up!

        October 26, 2010 at 8:45 pm |
  5. Kate

    I had pomegranate martini the other day and it was awesome. Making your own jam is the best. Chemicals free for sure.

    October 26, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
  6. KrissyStar

    My neighbor cans everything from her garden in the summer. I cant wait for the pomagrante (spelled wrong) jelly that she is making for me.

    October 26, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
  7. Jdizzle McHammerpants


    October 26, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
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