Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sticky (Angela) Jean

I'm always game to try something new.

When Shawn and the kids picked 12L of strawberries a few weeks back, I decided to make jam, something I have always wanted to do.
I had so many berries that I thought I would try making three different batches, with 3 different recipes. I did a bit of research and discovered that you can make jam with or without added pectin, the subtance that causes jam to gel. Some fruits, like apples and citrus fruit, contain higher levels of natural pectin, but strawberries are low on the list.

If you want to know more about pectin go here or here.
I decided to make 2 batches with different kinds of pectin and 1 batch without any added pectin.

For all three batches I sterilized my jars and lids in the oven. I kept them in a 225 degree oven for at least 10 minutes and then left them in the hot oven until the jam was ready to be jarred.

Batch #1

This batch was made with Bernardin Liquid Pectin. The recipe is the one that was on the pamphlet in the box.
3 3/4 cups crushed strawberries (I used a potato masher)
1/4 cup lemon juice
7 cups sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin

Yeild: 7 X 250 ml jars

In a large saucepan, stir together crushed strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar. Bring to a boil. Add the liquid pectin and boil for 1 additional minute. Remove from heat. Pour into sterilized jars.
The result was a batch with bit of a runny texture. It was VERY sweet. Since it was cooked for such a small amount of time, the colour was quite bright and the strawberry taste was very fresh.

Batch #2

This batch was also made with Pectin. This time I used Certo Light Pectin Crystals, and once again, used the recipe from the box.

6 cups crushed strawberries (again I used the potato masher)
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 box Certo Light Pectin Crystals

Yeild: 8 X 250 ml jars 

In a large saucepan, add prepared fruit. Combine Certo Light Pectin Crystals with 1/4 of sugar. Add to prepared fruit.

Bring to a boil over high heat.

Add rest of sugar.

Return to a hard boil for 1 minute.

Remove from heat. Stir and skim for 5 minutes to prevent floating fruit. Pour into sterilized jars.

This recipe resulted in a much thicker, more gelled consistency. The strawberry flavour came through well, and it had a very bright red colour. This jam was very similar to a store-bought jam. It was also considerably less sweet than the first batch.

Batch #3

This recipe is one I made up myself after reading several jam-making websites. It uses no added pectin. For this batch I also decided to see what would happen if I used the food processor to puree the strawberries before cooking.

4 cups pureed strawberries
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 cups sugar

Yeild: 5 X 250 ml jars 

In a large saucepan, stir together ingredients. Bring to a boil. Continue to boil, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 220 degrees F. (My batch took about 30 minutes). Pour into sterile jars.

This jam had the deepest colour and flavour. The texture was between the other 2 batches. It was also quite sweet.

Here are the final products in order from left to right.

Taste Test Results!
This week I brought samples of all 3 jams to work. I spread the word that there would be a taste test, and at the scheduled time, 28 of my colleagues turned out. Keep in mind that these are a bunch of very analytical people, so this was all taken very seriously.
The jams were served on small pieces of baguette. The testers tasted all three jams and were then asked to rank each jam in 5 categories: Colour, Aroma, Sweetness (their preference, not necessarily which was sweetest), Texture, and Overall Favourite. In each category, the jams received 1 point for a 3rd place rank, 2 points for a 2nd place rank, and 3 points for a 1st place rank. Note: some (difficult) testers...cough-Robyn-cough...refused to rank in certain categories so the points are not consistent from category to category.

1st place-Jam #3 (64 points)
2nd place-Jam #1 (61 points)
3rd place-Jame #2 (45 points)

This was a close race, but this crowd prefers the darkest colour jam.

1st place-Jam #1 (66 points)
2nd place-Jam #3 (43 points)
3rd place-Jam #2 (42 points)

This was a run-away for Jam #1. I can guess that the aroma would be altered for Jam #3 because it was cooked for so long, but why did Jam #2 score so poorly? Perhaps the thickness obscures the aroma. Or maybe all that sugar in Jam #1 enhances the aroma? Which brings us to...

1st place-Jam #1 (71 points)
2nd place-Jam #3 (47 points)
3rd place-Jam #2 (44 points)

Clearly I work with a bunch of sugar addicts.

1st place-Jam #1 (69 points)
2nd place-Jam #3 (51 points)
3rd place-Jam #2 (48 points)

The group preferred the runnier, lumpier jam. Most of the anecdotal comments I heard, reflected that the testers felt it looked and tasted the way homemade jam should.

Over-all Favourite
1st place-Jam #1 (75 points)
2nd place-Jam #3 (50 points)
3rd place-Jam #2 (43 points)

And no surprises here. Jam #1 was the clear favourite. It ranked first in every category, with the exception of colour. I was also surprised to see that, for the most part, the jams ranked the same in every category, even though the preferences varied from tester to tester. Facinating.

So, there you go. My little jam experiment.
A big thank you to Shawn and the kids for doing the picking, my testers for their due diligence and attention to detail, and to Carolyn, my stats keeper. I had a blast.


  1. I love homemade preserves! These look amazing...Great work!

  2. Oh dear, what to do? I've always used Jam #2 because it is low in sugar (I'm married to a diabetic), and we've always liked it. But it looks like I need to give Jam #1 a try.

  3. I love that you've done this; you're simultaneously a master of the kitchen, an eloquent writer and a complete data nerd!

    You're clearly in the right job... and I really want to taste the jam! (Number 3 - it sounds the best.)

  4. Fantastic work on the jams! I really liked Jam #1. I really thought that you were going to start selling jam. I guess I will take a jar for free...?

  5. I loved the whole in future, i volunteer for any tasting that is tasteful

  6. Wait...what...we're not going to have a taste test of your fabulous treats every week?