I don’t know about you but it seems after the holidays I always have at least one bag of fresh cranberries that I haven’t used. In the past the bag would jut sit in the refrigerator until I threw it out. I always felt it was such a waste as you can only get fresh cranberries around the holidays. But I finally discovered how to use those cranberries in a way I never considered before. That is, to make a wonderful jam. I tried it on my morning toast the other day and just loved it!
There are only a few ingredients, cranberries, brown sugar and water. No need to add any pectin to this recipe as cranberries are a natural source of it. Pectin is a starch that occurs naturally in the cell walls of fruits and vegetables. When these fruits and vegetables are cooked to a high temperature in combination with acid and sugar, a gel is formed. This is what gives jams and jellies their set when they cool. Pectin by itself can be used in other dishes that require food to gel or thicken. It’s also used as a fat substitute in some baked goods. But the cranberries naturally release pectin when they are boiled. That pop, pop you hear is the cranberry splitting open and releasing the pectin.
Now I realize you probably have already either used your remaining cranberries or thrown them out (like I used to do) but this is a good recipe to have in your back pocket for next holiday season. I promise I’ll remind you of it then so don’t worry.
So let’s talk cranberry jam
Lesson Learned 1 – You can control the sweetness of the jam: The recipe uses brown sugar. I suggest using the least amount and tasting the mixture before you reduce the heat and begin the stirring process. You can always add more sugar. I liked this recipe on the tangy side so I only added the least amount of brown sugar.
Lesson Learned 2 – For the last 10-15 minutes you need to stir the mixture constantly: You need to make the cranberries release the maximum amount of pectin. You also need to break down the berries for the jam. Cooking them the last 10-15 minutes accomplishes that. As I was stirring I was also taking some of the larger berries and pressing them against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon. That helped to break the berries down as well. After a while you will see a noticeable difference in the texture of the mixture – more jam-like. That is when you can stop.
Lesson Learned 3 – You can adjust this recipe: Depending on how much cranberries you have left you can adjust this recipe to that amount. So if you have a little or a lot, you can still make this wonderful jam.
I’m so pleased to know that I no longer need to waste any fresh cranberries after Christmas. This recipe makes a delightful unique jam that you will enjoy or toast, pancakes, or in any other way you use jam.
Homemade Cranberry Jam...
4 cups of whole fresh cranberries
1 – 2 cups brown sugar, packed (start with 1 cup)
1 cup water
Bring the cranberries, sugar and water to a boil. Reduce the heat and let cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. At this point taste the mixture to see if it needs more sugar. Add more if necessary.
Reduce heat to a very low setting. Cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly. Break apart larger cranberries against the side of the pan with a spoon if necessary.
Cool in the pan for about 30 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a mason jar, cover and chill.