Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pear Jam

Pears were falling off our tree in town last week, so the boys and I harvested a big box full. We also had several pears from an old tree in one of the fields at the ranch, so I needed to do something. It probably goes without saying that several Pear Pies are on my list of things to make, but I also decided to make Pear Jam. I haven't made Pear Jam in quite a few years, possibly since just before or after our first son was born, and I've been missing it. It is delicious, and worth every ounce of effort. If you think about it, it isn't much effort at all, given that you'll get over 6 jars of jam (or more!) to enjoy for months to come.

Go ahead and try it. I'll show you how it's done. This is a recipe for Cooked Jam, although they have changed the directions for canning it. I will tell you the way to do it. I just think it is NOT necessary to process the jars in boiling water, I'm not sure why they've changed the directions when the old way works great. I'll tell you the old way. If you're not comfortable with the way I tell you, then feel free to follow the directions on the insert from your very own box of Sure*Jell or other fruit pectin. I'm just here to show you how easy it really is, and to encourage you to try something new!

Also, please don't be tempted to "double" this recipe. My father-in-law tries to double his peach jam almost every year, and every year, despite me telling him that doubling is most likely the issue, he reports it doesn't work, it doesn't set properly. So please just don't do it. Just do it one batch at a time, and it will turn out fine.

Here are Sure*Jell's "Important Tips for Success"
  • Use firm ripe fruit for best flavor and set.
  • Buy new, flat jar lids for a good seal. (I admit, I have re-used lids before)
  • Always use clean jars. Thoroughly wash jars or containers before starting.
  • Use only the Sure*Jell pectin product specified in the recipes to insure a proper set. (In other words, if you're not using Sure*Jell, do NOT use this recipe)
  • Measure ingredients exactly. Spoon sugar into dry (metal or plastic) measuring cups. Scrape excess sugar from top of cup with a straight-edged knife. Use liquid (glass) measuring cups with a pour spout to measure prepared fruit. Use amount of sugar specified in each recipe. ALTERING RECIPES or INGREDIENTS could cause a set failure.

Gather these Tools you will need before you get started:
  • Tongs that can go in hot water
  • Half-pint jars, flat lids and screw tops (You can use a different size if you prefer. Half-pint jars hold approximately 1 cup of jam each)
  • A large pot for jars
  • A saucepan for flat lids
  • A ladle (metal preferred, but plastic works)
  • A funnel (if your jar openings are smaller--I like the wide-mouth jars so I don't need a funnel)
  • A wooden spoon
  • A clean dishcloth, wet with warm water and wrung out well
  • A clean, dry towel, for setting the hot jars on
  • A 6- to 8-quart saucepan for mixin' jam
Pear Jam
makes about 6 cups (I always end up with a bit more)

4 cups finely chopped pears (You'll need about 3 pounds of pears)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I just use ReaLemon)
1 box Sure*Jell
5 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon butter

1. Bring a big pot of water to simmer. You will use this to keep your jars (about 7 small ones) warm, so be sure it's big enough to hold at least 5 or so.

2. Wash jars and screw bands in hot, soapy water; rinse with warm water. Place the jars into the large pot of water (heat and simmer, but don't boil). Put flat lids in a saucepan--if you alternate your lids, top up, bottom up, and stagger their placement around the pan, they will be less likely to stick together. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.

3. Peel, pit and finely chop pears. I just keep chopping until I end up with 4 cups of pears. If using a food processor, pulse to chop. Do NOT puree.

4. Measure exact amount of prepared fruit into 6- or 8-quart saucepot. Stir in lemon juice.

5. Measure exact amount of sugar into separate bowl. (REDUCING SUGAR OR USING SUGAR SUBSTITUTES WILL RESULT IN SET FAILURES).

6. Stir 1 box Sure*Jell pectin into fruit in saucepot. Add 1/2 teaspoon butter to reduce foaming, if desired.

7. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly.

8. Stir in sugar quickly. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam.

9. Ladle quickly into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. I use tongs to remove a couple jars from the hot water at a time, and place them on the towel to fill. (if all your jars didn't fit in the pot, take a second to place the remaining jars in the pot of hot water as you take some out--they'll get plenty hot by the time you get to them) Wipe jar rims and threads with damp dishcloth. With tongs, remove a flat jar lid and place it on the jar, then top with screw band. Flip each jar upside down after the lids are on.

10. After all jars have been filled and lidded and turned upside down, set a timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minute, turn all jars right-side-up. At this point, some of them will seal and you will hear little "pops" as they do so. Some of the jars may take longer to seal. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.

11. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Label and date your jars. Store unopened jams in cool, dry, dark place up to 1 year. Refrigerate opened jams up to 3 weeks.

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