It's frustrating. You spend time, money, and energy to lovingly make a batch of beautiful jam. You have visions of tucking it into Christmas presents or serving it on top of homemade biscuits. Your family is impressed by the sheer variety of creative jam combinations: apricot-raspberry, apple-pear, cherry-lime — combinations you won't find on any grocery shelves. And then you open a jar and find that it is thick. Not just thick, but gooey — impossible to spread with a knife, almost gummy candy, gooey. Ahhhhhh!
You are in good company. Most of us who make pectin free jams and other spreads overcook a batch or two every year. I personally have no problems making peach jam, apricot jam or plum anything, but have great difficulties with berry or cherry jams. I know people who are the exact opposite and struggle with stone fruit spreads.
There are some ways to salvage overcooked jam. You usually don't have to toss the whole thing, unless it is scorched. If the jam tastes burnt, you might as well face facts and just get it out of your sight and into the garbage. There is no way to rehabilitate scorched jam.
If it isn't scorched though, here are some ideas to try:
• Slowly heat it in the microwave a few seconds at a time and then use it as usual.
• If it is still too thick, add some water while heating it in the microwave and then use it as a delicious and unusual pancake or ice cream syrup. (Really, where else would you find Orange Marmalade Ice Cream Sundaes? • • Your family will think that you are brilliant. And you are!)
• Whisk some overcooked jam together with vinegar and tomato sauce to make your own BBQ sauce.
• Spoon it into the center of homemade jam surprise muffins. I often use up my overcooked jam tucked into the center of peanut butter muffins.
• Make your own version of Chicken Cherries Jubilee. See my daughter-in-law's version here.
• Melt the jam in the microwave and brush it over a freshly baked pound cake or bar cookies. It adds flavor and helps keep the baked goods moist.
• Add a spoonful to stir-fried vegetables for a flavor boost.
• Beat some into buttercream frosting and spread on cupcakes.
Can you feel your frustrations melting away? Good. You may decide that overcooked jam is your cooking secret ingredient, and next year you'll be intentionally overcooking it. At least, that is what you can tell people.
Renee Pottle is an author, Family and Consumer Scientist, and Master Food Preserver. She writes about canning, baking, and urban homesteading at SeedtoPantry.com. Read all of Renee's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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