On toast, stirred into yogurt or oatmeal, or just eaten straight from the spoon as a quick dessert, it’s always worth having a jar of jam in the pantry. And while you’ve got a ton of options available at the supermarket, we’re here to convince you to make your own—and to teach you how to do it from your very own kitchen.
Why make jam when you can buy it? you may ask. Doing it from your own kitchen has a couple of advantages: you can control the amount of sweetness (though do keep in mind that sugar functions more than just a sweetener in jam-making—more on this below). It’s a great way to make use of any fruit in season and enjoy its flavors all year ‘round—and with the vast selection of natural bounties available in the Philippines, you definitely won’t run out of choices to play with. You can also vary up the fruits and the flavorings that go into the mix—use two or more fruits, add herbs and spices or even liquors. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
There’s a bit of science involved in making jam, but it’s mostly a matter of forming a “molecular web” to hold the sweetened fruit mix together. At its core, jam has only a few essential ingredients: fruit, sugar, and (depending on the fruit) acid and/or pectin. Pectin refers to an indigestible soluble fiber that thickens the jam into its characteristic gel. It’s naturally found in many fruits, but certain fruits contain lower levels than others—in which case you may have to add powdered pectin to compensate. The acid, which usually comes in the form of lemon juice, works with the pectin to set the jam and helps it last longer by preventing bacteria growth. Sugar not only helps sweeten the fruit mixture—it also affects the jam’s consistency (too little and it won’t set; too much and you’ll end up with an too-thick and sticky, or even crystallized, mix) and shelf life (sugar acts as a preservative).
To stretch its life even further, be sure to take the time to sterilize your jars to kill any bacteria that might be found on the jar itself. Fortunately, sterilization is a quick and easy process. There are a couple of ways to do it but we’ve gone with with the boiling method, which is exactly that: boiling the jars in water for 10-15 minutes. Keep them in the boiling water until you’re ready to pour in the hot jam. Take note that you’ll have to repeat the sterilization process once you go past an hour of waiting time.
In this recipe we use guava, the tropical fruit known for its naturally sweet, lush aroma and one-of-a-kind flavor. There’s no need for additional powdered pectin here as guava itself is naturally pectin-rich; we did add cornstarch just to help thicken the mixture faster, but you can leave the cornstarch out and just cook the mixture down for longer. Acid comes in the form of calamansi juice here, which also adds a tang that really brings out the guava flavor. Our recipe also includes ginger and black pepper, just because we couldn’t resist adding a bit of a zing, but feel free to omit. You get a sweet, slightly tangy, uber-luscious jam that you can be proud to say you’ve made all on your own. Have it with by itself, with cheese and crackers (the author especially loves it with gorgonzola), or do one like us and use it to top your favorite pastries—like these Bibingka Cheesecake Soufflé from PILYO that we’re currently obsessing over.
Yield: 2 small jours
Time: 2 hours
- 1 kg guava, ripe and cut into cubes
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 30g ginger, grated
- 2 tbsp calamansi juice
- pinch of black pepper, freshly ground
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- Place guava into a pot.
- Fill pot with 2 cups water to a boil then bring down to a simmer.
- Simmer till guava is extremely tender and starts falling apart, 30 minutes to an hour.
Once guava is softened, top up pot with enough water to cover guava and pour into a fine sieve.
Force guava through sieve into a clean pot with a ladle or spatula.
Place any skin and seeds that remain in the sieve into a bowl and Mix with an extra cup of water.
Pass pulp through the sieve again into the same pulp. Discard anything left in the sieve.
Mix in the sugar, ginger, and black pepper into the guava pulp.
Place over a low heat and reduce till the mixture becomes syrupy and coats the back of a spoon.
Mix the 2 Tbsp of cornstarch with an equal amount of water and whisk intothe guava jam.
Bring to a boil. It should be the consistency of a very thick gravy.
Take off the heat and pour into sterilized jars.