Come this time of year, I start getting a wee bit stressed. I am blessed to have some very lovely family, friends, and co-workers by my side each week and I like to use this time of year to express my thanks for all of their support throughout each day of the year. Unfortunately, buying a material gift is not always an option. Aside from the sheer expense of trying to purchase little tokens of my affection for everyone, it can just seem a bit forced. Instead, I like to focus on making people homemade gifts that they can actually use - or in this case, eat.
As you already know, I am a jam-making-fool and I can always be found in my kitchen trying out new fruit blends. Over the years, I've had many successes (Strawberry Blueberry Freezer Jam, Cherry Peach Freezer Jam, Strawberry Freezer Jam, Strawberry Peach Jam, and Apple Pie Jam) as well as many failures that you will NOT see in our Recipe Index like Banana Jam (it was really gross) and Watermelon Jam (equally as gross and smelled like dirty socks while it was cooking).
The biggest misconception about making jam is that it's quite difficult to do, but I promise you it's not that hard. All you're really doing in firing a bunch of diced-up fruit into a pot, with some sugar, and then just cooking it down until it sets. I don't even use pectin unless it's a really soft fruit that just won't set properly on it's own like raspberries. I've even done away with double processing - I just stick to "Freezer Jams" now because the recipients of my jam end up eating it right away.
Now that December is upon us, I am busy whipping up all sorts of homemade gifts in my kitchen like truffles, chocolate-covered pretzels and...jam. A few weeks ago, I created a new recipe for what I'm now calling Holiday Jam and I'm really excited about how it turned out. It is chock full of Gala apples, ruby-red cranberries and a secret ingredient...Bolthouse Amazing Mango® smoothie. I kid you not!
This unique combination of flavors is really spot on in terms of what you'll be looking for on a cold winter's morning. The apples are sweet and tender, the cranberries are tart and crisp, and the Bolthouse Amazing Mango® smoothie adds just the right amount of citrus and color to the mix. It is really an incredibly tasty jam. (This jam does set up a little on the thick side, so it can even be used at lunch or dinner alongside chicken or pork dishes.)
The recipe below makes 5 half-pints (5, 8 ounce jars) of jam with a little bit left over - approximately 1/4 pint, which I always keep for myself! As this is a freezer jam, once it has completely cooled, the jam must be stored in the refrigerator or the freezer. If you are travelling with this homemade gift, I advise packing it with ice packs to keep the temperature constant. Freezer jam will keep for up to 1 year in the freezer and 3 weeks in the fridge. (Read more about Freezer Jam here.)
HOLIDAY JAM (APPLE CRANBERRY)
Yield: 5 1/2, 8 ounce Ball Jars (1/2 pints)
* 8 apples (7 cups) - peeled, cored and diced (I used Gala apples).
* 2 1/2 cups white sugar
* 1, 12 oz bag of cranberries (I prefer Ocean Spray cranberries.)
* 1 cup Bolthouse Amazing Mango® smoothie
Step 1: Using a large pot, heat the apples, cranberries, Bolthouse Amazing Mango® smoothie and 2 cups of white sugar over medium high heat. Stirring often, cook for approximately 15 minutes, then smash fruit with a potato smasher. (If you like your jam more smooth-textured than chunky, you can remove some of the heated fruit at this point and chop it up in a blender. But be careful. To make sure you don't get burned, cover the blender lid with a towel - the heated fruit and steam can burn pop the lid off.)
Step 2: Place a small plate in the freezer while you continue cooking the jam. Add remaining 1/2 cup of white sugar and cook for approximately 10 more minutes.
Step 3: At the 10 minute mark, place a small dollop of jam onto the frozen plate and return it back to the freezer for 2 minutes. Remove the plate and run your finger through the jam. If the line "holds", your jam is good to go. If it is still a bit too runny, let it cook for a few more minutes. (Note: Jam made without pectin will never look like store-bought jam; it's not supposed to. This is fresh, right out of your home, and will always have a runnier consistency. If that stresses you out, you can use powdered pectin. The jam will also thicken up some more in the fridge.)
Step 4: You can store the jam in any kind of clean, sterilized, freezer-safe container: plastic bags, glass jam jars, plastic containers (like Tupperware) or glass containers (like Pyrex). It’s best to use jars (or containers) with wide mouths and straight neck. When filling, make sure to leave ½-inch of room at the top for expansion upon freezing. Leave jam sitting out at room temperature for 1-2 hours to let it cool down before putting it in the freezer - or refrigerator if you plan on eating it asap.
Tip: To keep my apples from browning while I'm peeling, coring and dicing, I placed them into a large bowl of water as I cut them up. Once all of the apples have been diced, I drain them and then toss them into the cooking pot.
Happy Jam Making,