The Basics of Making Preserves

Preserves were the first thing I learned how to can. We got gobs and gobs of various fruits every year – from nectarines to strawberries to figs to persimmons and everything in between. They sit in our freezer taking up space.

Then we decided that preserves would make awesome gifts for people. I haven’t bought a gift for Xmas for anyone for 3 years now and my bank account loves me for it.

I make preserves differently than most people. I don’t add pectin. Why not? Because I don’t want to spend the money not only on the pectin but also on the additional sugar it requires. Because frutose (the sugar in fruit) tastes sweeter than sucrose (table sugar) these preserves are actually slightly sweeter tasting because there is less sugar in the recipe to “cut” the fructose.

My general rule of thumb is 2 parts fruit to 1 part sugar by volume. For every pound of fruit I also add a tablespoon of lemon juice to up the acidity and increase the natural pectin. Sometimes you will need to vary the ratio depending on the fruit. Usually the length of time I boil it can help work out any issues though.

I add the fruit to a thick bottomed pot and then pour the sugar over it. I turn the heat up to medium-high and stir until the fruit and sugar liquefy. It will boil and foam up. Just keep stirring. When the foam goes down only keep it on the heat for awhile longer. I usually keep a serving spoon nearby and take samples of the mixture while cooking it to determine if it’s thick enough. It should still be runny, but the consistency of maple syrup at room temp.

Immediately ladle into sterilized jars, wipe the rim clean and then screw on the lid. It’s recommended to put through a boiling water bath for 10 min. or so.