Making Jam and Jelly From Any Fruit

by Mariana Rufin

It’s easy enough to buy jam or jelly at the grocery store, but making them from scratch is an excellent way to preserve your favorite seasonal fruit. 

First, it’s good to understand the difference between jam and jelly. Jam is looser and includes bits of fruit, whereas jelly is smooth, gelatinous and has no pulp. This change in texture can be attributed to differences in the cooking process. To make jelly, you must cook then strain fruit, and for jam you reduce pieces of broken-down fruit with sugar, which results in a looser, non-uniform product. 

There is no perfect season to make jam or jelly. While access to fresh and ripe fruit helps create the best product, frozen fruit can make an excellent substitute in a pinch. That said, fall and winter fruits such as grapes, pears, figs, and apples will have the best flavor right now and produce the best jam or jelly. Depending on what is available to you locally, this process is applicable to any number of fruits that are not native to North America, including bananas, papayas, pineapples, and passionfruit. Ultimately, making jams, jellies, preserves, and marmalades are the best way to enjoy in-season fruits any day of the year. Additionally, if over-ripe fruits are at risk of rotting, making a quick jam takes less than an hour and helps to reduce food waste. Jelly, on the other hand, can be quite time consuming. 

There are a few details to be aware of when making jam and jelly. For the perfect jelly use fruit that is less ripe, but still mature enough to be flavorful and sweet, according to Martha Stewart’s basic jam recipes. Some jelly recipes require pectin powder, but for the purpose of keeping this recipe simple, no green apples or powdered pectin are required. 

These jam and jelly recipes use red grapes, which require little to no preparation. Fruits that have seeds, skins, or other unpleasant bits to remove make the process more complicated. For stone fruits like plums and peaches, you can score an ‘x’ on the top and blanch them quickly so the skin falls off more easily. For fruits with cumbersome seeds, like raspberries, strain the berry mixture after the cooking process is finished. 

Sugar controls the viscosity, or the ‘stickiness,’ of the spreads, but if you prefer a less sweet jam or jelly, feel free to adapt the amount of sugar as you see fit. Both recipes call for three pounds of grapes in order to make five cups of either jelly or jam. But it may be smart to cut the proportions of the recipe in half and make jam with one portion of fruit and make jelly with the other portion.

Grape Jam and Jelly (adapted from Martha Stewart’s basic jam and jelly recipes)

Yield: 5 cups of jam or jelly

 Jam Ingredients

  • 3 pounds red grapes, cut in half 
  • 1 ½ pounds granulated sugar (approximately 3 ⅓ cups) 
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Jam Preparation: 

  1. Stir together the grapes, sugar, and a pinch of salt in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil. 
  2. Stir and crush this mixture until the sugar is dissolved and the fruit is thoroughly mashed.
  3. Add the lemon juice and continue to boil, stirring constantly for roughly 10-12 minutes. 
  4. Skim the foam off of the top of the mixture, and let the jam cool. completely before placing into clean mason jars.

Jelly Ingredients

  • 3 pounds red grapes, halved
  • 1 ½ pounds granulated sugar (approximately 3 ⅓ cups) 
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice 
  • ¼ tsp salt (use sea salt or kosher if possible) 
  • 1 cup water

Jelly Preparation:

  1. Combine the grapes and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, while mashing and stirring the grapes. 
  2. After 10-15 minutes have passed, set the mixture over a strainer or cheesecloth if available, and let it strain for four hours without pressing on the fruit. 
  3. After the juice is completely strained, place it back into a saucepan and add lemon juice, salt, and sugar. The amount of sugar needed depends on the actual amount of juice, but the general ratio is ¾ cups of sugar for every 1 cup of juice. 
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, for 8-12 minutes. If using a candy thermometer, the temperature should register 221 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  5. Once again, skim the foam from the top, and ladle the jelly into clean jars once completely cooled.

For both recipes, make sure to sanitize the containers being used. Mason jars are recommended for a longer shelf life, but tupperware or other glass jars can be used as well. To sanitize glass jars, boil them for 25 minutes without lids. Jam and jelly can last for roughly a month in the refrigerator once opened, or up to a year if frozen.

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