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August 2000 Issue
How Sweet It Is
by Ronda L. Halpin
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As gardens around the world offer up sweet and tangy harvests, my thoughts turn to the many ways to preserve the bounty. And, having more than one sweet tooth, thoughts of jam also fill my head.

While markets everywhere offer a wide and quality selection of jams, jellies and sauces, there's something downright sentimental about making your own from fruit grown by yourself or someone you love. And while I would encourage you to experiment with treasures from the grocery store shelf that might not be practical to make in your kitchen, I'd also suggest trying to make a few jars of something sweet at home as well. At the very least, it provides a better idea of the processing involved in getting those sweet treats from the garden or orchard to your breakfast table!

The essential ingredients in the jam recipes featured in this article are fruit and sugar. The fruit determines the overall flavor of your final product, so picking or purchasing top quality fruit is essential. If your fruit is under ripe, your jam could end up with an overly mild flavor and chunks of fruit that are too large for proper spreading. If your fruit is overripe or damaged, the jam could become visually unappealing or worse. The sugar serves to heighten the sweetness of the fruit and thicken the final product (gelatin or pectin can also be added to help thicken the mixture).

While sugar-free options abound, I have found that getting them to set properly is a challenge and I generally opt to purchase my sugar-free preserves from a market. Also, for those beginners that want a simple method for making homemade jams, I would recommend purchasing pectin (I use the Sure-Jell brand) and following the instructions for various fruit jams included in the packages.

Since this article is meant to encourage beginners, the recipes presented are all freezer jam recipes. I think freezer jam is a good way to start making jam since it requires no special equipment and nearly everyone has just a little freezer space to spare for a few jars. Perhaps we'll tackle the more difficult aspects of canning jams and the like in the future.

To help you enjoy the pleasures of jam-making (and, of course, eating), I'm including three freezer jam recipes that I've enjoyed at my table. I hope the same will be true for your family!

As always, I'd love to hear about how your cooking adventures turn out. Feel free to share your own recipes, stories and comments with me!
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