Homemade Jam, the French Way...





Introduction: Homemade Jam, the French Way...

...or, Smucker's Jam Scam.

Last May I had the pleasure of reading Robert Arbor's Joie de Vivre, a how-to guide on everyday living the French way. In it Arbor professed the pleasures of simplicity in food and day-to-day living, and because I was finishing my last semester in grad school with a five-month-old, and moving in two weeks; I was grateful for his perspective on how Americans should slow down and adopt more of the French culture.

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Step 1: Take Some Fruit.

In his book, he had the simplest recipe for homemade jam: take a bowlful of mixed berries, toss them in a pot, add enough sugar to your liking, a bit of water, and boil down on a medium heat. Easy. The simplicity of a fruit and sugar combination makes for a jam that suggests (French) country living and since then, I've snubbed Welch's and any other store-bought brands.

Step 2: Toss It in a Pot and Add Some Sugar.

Unlike chef Arbor, I do not have an orchard, or even a balcony garden at my disposal (but I just may tackle the latter one day), and I've substituted the fresh fruit for a frozen bag of mixed berries. In my opinion, very little taste has been lost in the alteration. The steps are the same, except that the frozen berries have enough moisture in them that water is not needed and will only make more of a berry soup than jam.

Step 3: Cook on Medium Low Heat.

I am a bit amazed at the lack of sugar that I put in the mix as I like my jam a bit tart. If you use a lot of sugar in your coffee or Kool-Aid, do yourself the favor and add about 1/2 a cup of sugar to the mix as I do not want to turn you off from fresh jam simply because of its tartness. Gradually decrease the amount each time you make it and I am certain that you will enjoy it with just a coating.

Step 4: Slather on Freshly Toasted Bread

You don't need to watch the jam or stir it constantly. I think that one of the reasons why jam making is a dying tradition is because we have fooled ourselves into believing that anything homemade means that an arduous task lies ahead. Making jam is not difficult at all; I am boiling up a pot right now as I am writing to you.

I am certain that one of most telling characteristics of a good cook is being able to determine a food's readiness by its smell, and right now my house is wafting with a fresh, tangy scent of pie filling. And being the good chef that I am, I will pause to head over to the stove and give the pot a good shake.

Step 5: Nosh.

Okay. No spoons or spatulas are needed until you pour the mixture into a container (I reuse an old jelly jar and am thinking of making my own label) and ladle every last drop of ruby-colored syrup covetously. I do suggest checking the jam once every five or ten minutes to give the pot a good shake over the burner to keep the berries from burning. Once the fruit has cooked down and the mixture is the consistency of the jam of your dreams (smooth or chunky), take the pot off the heat and let cool.



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How long will this stay fresh? Do you keep it refridgerated?

My approach for homemade jams/preserves has been to freeze them in 8-ounce plastic containers. (The rectangular ones pack into the freezer better than round ones.) I've kept them in the freezer for a year this way with no problems... just long enough for the next batch of fruit to ripen. <smile/>

If you don't have sufficient cold storage space, and you're making more than a small batch (I have about four gallons of assorted berries, also in my freezer, waiting to be cooked down), then it's worth considering learning proper canning technique. Canning is also useful if you want to be able to give your preserves as gifts without having to explain that they must be refrigerated _immediately_.  I'm planning to learn simply because I like the idea of being able to keep at least a few jars for longer times without tying up freezer space; there's something comforting about the idea of having a bit of a specific summer stored away on your pantry shelf.

You do not need canning to keep jam.
Its sugar content is high enough to just pour it hot into cans, place the screwing lid on and your done.
It keep for years that way. No need to waist energy with a fridge or a freezer.

Even if you get a little mold (which should not happen before 1 year), just scoop it out, the rest will be fine.

The other note is, why French jam. Jam is made the same way all over the world, isn't it?


I've kept a batch of this jam in the fridge for about a week and it didn't turn. I think you'll find that you'll gobble it up before it goes bad! I wouldn't recommend trying to keep it for longer than a week.

Happy cooking,

Traci Hudson, My House Boutique

Homemade jam should keep in the fridge just as long as store bought jam. Between all the sugar and the acidity from the fruit it is well preserved. The only benefit you get from canning is the vacuum which is broken as soon as you open the store bought one anyway.


You're right!

I made some of this with mixed berries last night, thinking I was going to give jars away to friends. Then I tried it. I now have three jars of jam I'm hoarding for myself and nothing to give away. Delicious!

Thanks! This jam really is tasty. I look forward to berry season and am going to try and can a bunch in the summer. Maybe then I'll have enough to share with others ;)

The frozen fruit is a great idea. For one you can get a mixed bag as you suggest for a delicious flavor. Secondly, frozen fruits are actually fresher than store bought fresh fruit because they are picked when ripe then frozen. "Fresh" fruit is picked before it is ripe so it's not actually ripe when you get it, more like aged off the tree, vine, bush, whatever.

very true. for example bananas are picked when green and ripen during shipping. they sometimes spray them with chemicals to prolong/hasten the ripening until they get to where they're going... icky
not to mention the cost difference between fresh and frozen berries D=