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Unlike jellies that have the fruit pulp removed, jams are made of mashed fruit pulp that is combined with water and sugar, then cooked until it has thickened. Jams will have no runny juice although their colors will be bright and the consistency will be spreadably soft.

Many fruits such as tart apples, concord grapes, cranberries and damson plums are rich in pectin. Fruits such as these make wonderful jams. Medium pectin fruits such as strawberries and low pectin fruits such as peaches, pears or raspberries will also make good jams if you improve the jelling qualities. Jams should be made from under ripe fruits which are higher in pectin and acid. When you combine one part under ripe fruit with three parts ripe fruit you can greatly enhance the jelling properties of ripe fruits.

If the recipe you are using to make jam does not call for commercial pectin, you can measure the amount of pectin in your fruit by putting a tablespoon of the unsweetened, cooked fruit juice and a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol in a saucer. Blend them together to see if a thick clot forms. If it does you will know that your fruit is rich in pectin. If the clots are stringy the fruit has average pectin content and if there are many small clumps you will need to add pectin to your fruit.

Jam thickens when the acids in the fruit, correct portions of pectin and sugar are combined. When this mixture is cooked to a certain temperature the jam will thicken. Commercial pectins can be purchased for making jams at most grocery stores. They are available in both liquid and powdered forms. Powder should always be added to the fruits before cooking. In many cases pectin is added to all jams and jellies simply to insure that the product jells. This can also cut down on the cooking time of your fruits. Using pectin will not affect the flavor of your finished jam, but it will require the use of additional sugar.

To check the acid content of your fruit you can mix one teaspoon of lemon juice, three tablespoons of water and 1\2 teaspoon of sugar. If the juice from your fruit does not taste as tart as this mixture you will need to add lemon juice to insure you have the correct amount of acid. The acid content, like the pectin content, contributes to the jelling process. But even more important, it is what gives jams and jellies their good flavor. If you need to add acid to your jam you can use about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per cup of fruit or juice.

To make your jam, clean your fruit and remove stems, blemishes, seeds or cores. Cut fruits into small pieces or crush berries in a bowl. Put fruit and 1\2 cup water per 4 cups of fruit into a large pan and allow it to come to a boil. Cook until fruits are tender and add 3\4 cup sugar per cup of fruit. Continue cooking the mixture, allowing it to boil rapidly until thickened. Be sure to stir your jam frequently to keep it from sticking or burning. On an average fruits will reach the jam stage at 220 degrees fahrenheit. This usually takes between 5 and 15 minutes. Be sure you do not over cook jam or it will become too thick. It is best to test your jam by using a thermometer. Pour the jam while still hot, into clean, sterilized jam jars and screw on self sealing lids. Tighten the lids and allow to cool before storing.