So I’m not going to lie, making jams and marmalades are a couple of my favorite things to do. Jams are easy and for me are a go to for whenever my fruits get too soft. Marmalades take a lot more time and effort into making, but I think we all know what kind of product you get when you put a lot of time and effort into it… A GANGSTER ONE.
So let me just start by saying I learned my techniques and ethics on jams, jellies, and marmalades from Rachel Saunders, the author of The Blue Chair Jam Book. This chick made a jam once and wasn’t happy with the outcome, so she started obsessing over it and experimenting with different fruits and processes until she finally mastered her own techniques. She’s not all into the “preserving” of it, she’s more about the beauty of it. The color of the jams when the sun hits it on the counter, the fact that you can gift it to your friends, and most importantly - the flavor of it.
Throughout her dedication to her company, Blue Chair Fruit, she not only learned about jams, jellies, and marmalades, but she learned about fruit. All chefs have their theories on how to make jams and whatnot, and I respect them all, but I went with the one who’s passion landed ground zero into it, and I must say - every jam and marmalade I’ve made has been a super success.
A jam is a fruit preserve consisting of pieces of fruit cooked with sugar until they thicken and partially break down.
A jelly is an extracted fruit juice that has been combined with sugar, lemon juice, and (sometimes) added pectin and boiled until it sets.
A marmalade is a jelly with clearly defined pieces of fruit suspended in it.
*So with a good jam, you want to cook it as fast as possible and with as little sugar as possible so you can capture the true freshness of the raw fruit. You want to bring the fruit to its highest pinnacle of flavor, then immediately stop the cooking. So instead of throwing raw fruit into a pot with sugar and lemon juice, macerate it. By macerating it you’re cutting the time it takes to break the fruit down so you can boil it faster thus keeping more of it’s fresh rawness flavor. Strawberries I only have to macerate for minutes where rhubarb takes overnight and in a warm place.
With jellies and marmalades you want to cook it down slow and low, that is the tempo. Extract every little piece of flavor and pectin from that fruit, dammit. They taste intensely of the fruit, but not raw fruit. With marmalade, you have to make a jelly first, then add soaked cut up fruit and cook it all down together. With proper technique, this takes three days.
Imagine all the possibilities!! It’s like blanching and braising; tartare and jerky; fresh and cured and hung. Two totally different flavors from the same product. And tons of different fruits and berries and citrus out there to mess with.
Something else I do to make a killer jam is I make a jam base (i.e. rhubarb), and then chop up fresh fruit (i.e. strawberries) and throw a bunch of lemon juice and zest in there. Of course you have to keep that stuff chilled, but you get the picture. Raw on raw action.
So obviously if you just see some fruit or berries going bad in your walk in and want a quick delicious answer, do the jam. But if you want a project, and a great product nonetheless, bust out some marmalade. I’ve made orange, lemon, meyer lemon, and yuzu marmalades. Orange and yuzus were my favorites. I also make a super dope rhubarb jam with chopped up strawberries and stonefruit.
If you haven’t messed with this stuff, try it out. Also, get this book. It’s a good read.