Dear Disa

Dear Disa –I’m writing to you because you are a very experienced jam maker. I can count on you for sage advice and honesty which you will give freely because you know that as my oldest friend – we aren’t going anywhere – no matter what you say to me. I need your input and I need your truth – the truth – and your advice. Here we go. . .. Have you ever used pectin? What about the kind you make yourself from apples? Is it sacrilege? A bad idea? Unnecessary? The reason I’m asking is because I made strawberry jam last week and it was just fine – delicious in fact – but sugary. I wanted to make some low-sugar strawberry jam so I bought more berries (no need to comment on the fact that I had to purchase the strawberries . . . I am well aware of what grows in your garden and I am very envious) and I made more jam and I cooked it to gel temperature – 220° F.

I even did the plate in the refrigerator test. When done I jarred it up and then I did the water bath thing. Then I put one of the jars into the refrigerator and when I opened up the jar the next day, the jam was pretty runny. Too runny. I knew that I had to open up all the pretty sealed jars and pour the stuff back into the jam pot so I did. Then, unsure about what was next, I read a little bit about my options. I read a couple of books – I searched the internet – like that – and based on my research I felt like I had 3 options: add more sugar to the strawberries; cook the heck out of the strawberries without adding more sugar which would impact the color; or use pectin.

From an early age, I was well schooled in the evils of the use of pectin by my mother. Truth be told, I didn’t even know what pectic was. I only knew that it gets used in jam and jelly making by some makers of such but that my mother would not have been caught dead using pectin.

I did some more research and learned that you can make pectin yourself (prior to that I thought it was something you had to buy in the grocery store) and in fact, upon reflection, when my neighbor Sue and I made Orange Marmalade from the few Seville oranges she was able to get from the orange guy at the Farmer’s Market, we did make pectin by tying together the pits and ribs and membranes in cheese cloth and having it cook in the pot of orange marmalade. But this was different.

So I read and I learned about apple pectin. The recipes for making apple pectin were pretty simple so I decided to try that. Out I went to the store and bought apples – abhorrent to you I understand – you have a tree or trees or a whole freaking orchard – whatever…

I then made pectin from the store bought apples, which I will talk about after I get your feedback on the whole pectin thing. I used the pectin in the too runny strawberry jam and actually, it turned out good. Not too sugary. Pretty jammy – not too runny. It is a little bit cloudy however – but still a pretty color. So I’m wondering what do you think about homemade apple pectin in strawberry jam. Blasphemy? Would you ever do that? Have you ever done that? Do you even bother with low-sugar strawberry jam? What do you do?

Love, Amy

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