I have discovered something new and - oh so - exciting lately! Have you heard of Pomona's Universal Pectin? I'm not sure how I hadn't heard of it earlier, as much jam and jelly as I make. This pectin is different from the standard powdered or liquid pectin you find at the store because instead of being activated by sugar, it is activated by calcium (which is included in each pack). Why is this exciting? Have you ever thought about how much sugar goes into a standard batch of jam? To ensure proper jelling, most recipes typically require considerably more sugar than fruit! Sometimes twice as much sugar as fruit! Additionally, with traditional pectin, you can't scale recipes and be certain that it will turn out properly. Don't quite end up with the four cups of fruit required by the recipe? With traditional pectin, too bad! This pectin alleviates all of those problems. The price even ends up being more reasonable than regular pectin. Each box of Pomona's (I bought a 3-pack on Amazon for $15) has enough pectin for three or four batches. So far, I am a fan!
The only drawback I can see so far is that there just aren't as many tested recipes out there using the stuff. They have come out with a book with a wide variety of recipes using their pectin. There are quite a few in there I plan on trying. But, you know me, I always feel the need to make things my own, so I've already been fiddling with making my own recipes (they give guidelines on how to do that, too, on the package insert).
Using their guidelines, I made a batch of peach jam last night that was phenomenal! While you can make very low sugar jams and jellies with this pectin, I think I'll probably end up making recipes somewhere in between their recipes and traditional. There are some trade offs to using less sugar. The jam ends up looking more like just mashed fruit and less translucent/crystal beautiful. I've also found the really low sugar recipe jams are harder to spread. And, as you might guess, if you use a lot less sugar, you end up with a lot less jam. This peach jam contains a bit more than Pomona's standard recipe, but it is still so much less than you would use in a traditional batch. For comparison, this recipe has 2 cups of sugar for 3 cups of fruit (notice there is more fruit than sugar), while the traditional recipe has 7.5 cups of sugar for 4 cups of fruit (almost two times more sugar than fruit)! For a delicate fruit flavor like peach, this is huge. This jam is so much more peachy than you get with the traditional recipe, and it's a nice balance between fruit and beautiful clear spread.
There are a couple things to note. Pomona's pectin needs to be used properly for good results. For instance, this pectin will not dissolve in a high sugar environment. Therefore, in this recipe, the sugar is added in two batches at two separate times. DO NOT ADD IT ALL AT ONCE! My understanding is that when the pectin doesn't dissolve, not only do you not get a good jell, but the jam is then grainy. Yuck! Be sure to follow the directions for good results. The other thing is that I made this jam at 10 pm last night. I had already finished another batch and was getting tired, so I forgot to mash the fruit with my hands after mincing it. The jam still tastes fabulous, but the texture is a bit more chunky than I prefer.
Lastly, this jam can be made as just a plain peach jam, but I think the spice really takes it over the top. You can certainly leave out the spice, but I highly recommend it!
Peach Pie Jam
Yield: 4 1/2 half-pint jars
3 cups minced peaches, mashed with your hands
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp calcium water (mixed as directed from the Pomona's packet)
1/4 tsp butter (optional - this jam does not foam as much as traditional ones)
2 cups sugar (separated - DO NOT ADD ALL AT ONCE!)
1 1/2 tsp Pomona's Universal pectin
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg (optional)
3/8 tsp cinnamon (optional)
Prepare jars and a water bath canner. If you are new to canning, please review my Canning 101 post for details on how to safely can using a water bath canner. In a large sauce pan, heat the peaches, lemon juice, calcium water, and butter (if using) together. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, thoroughly mix the pectin and one cup of the sugar together. This step is very important so the pectin does not clump. Stir the sugar/pectin mixture into the boiling fruit. Return to a hard boil, and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Then add the remaining cup of sugar, stir, and reheat to boiling to ensure the sugar is all dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the spice, if using. Fill jars leaving a 1/4 inch head space. Put on lids and rings. Process in a water bath canner for ten minutes. Remove canner from heat and remove lid. Let jars cool in canner for five minutes before removing to cool. If jars have sealed properly, they can be stored in a cool, dark place for over a year. Please note that lower sugar jams will not last as long in the refrigerator once they've been opened as traditional jams.