Most of the time, I make jam on my turquoise, 45 year old, electric stove. I’ve also made jam on a camp stove, on an induction burner, on an plain gas stove and even on a high-powered commercial gas range. And now, I’ve even made jam in a bread machine.
Several months ago, I spotted this post on the King Arthur Flour blog, in which they make a batch of strawberry jam in a Zojirushi bread machine. Being that I’m fascinated by all things having to do with jam making (don’t tell me you didn’t notice), I determined that this was something I wanted to try. In the interest of science, of course.
I got in touch with the folks at Zojirushi and they very nicely agreed to give me a review unit so that I could see how this whole bread machine jam thing worked. It arrived on my birthday (which was more than a month ago now) and I spent at least a week circling it warily, uncertain whether I wanted to trust my fruit to an automated machine that wouldn’t let me control the heat source.
Finally I unswaddled it from boxes and styrofoam, mashed up two cups of strawberries and got to work. The instructions that come with the Zojirushi say to combine 2 cups of crushed berries, 3/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. For the first round, I followed the instructions exactly and cooked the jam without any additional pectin.
Fruit, sugar and lemon juice go into the pan. Then you close the lid and set it to the jam setting (don’t be fooled by the 3:45 time in the picture above, I took that before I set it run the jam cycle. It only takes 1:20 to make jam in the Zojirushi). When the cooking time is up, the machine issues a couple of friendly beeps so that you can rush over and check on your jam (that is, if you weren’t hovering very nearby, occasionally lifting the lid a little to peek at the progress).
So here’s the good news. This machine, which was designed to bake bread, makes perfectly adequate jam. It gets quite hot, the paddles keep the jam moving to prevent any scorching and it’s dead easy to use. If you’re the type who likes to freeze fruit and make small batches of jam throughout the year, making your jam in a Zojirushi is a really good option. However, it has a major flaw as a jam maker and that is that with the lid closed, you’re just never going to get the necessary amount of evaporation to get a really thick jammy jam.
I did one batch without pectin (sorry, no pictures of the jam with pectin, I knocked it over just after pouring it into the jar and splattered my kitchen entirely in sticky fruit spray) and one with and both remained stubbornly runny and without the body that a good jam should have (though the batch with 2 teaspoons of powdered pectin did firm up more than the batch without).
The picture below pairs a stove cooked jam (on the left) with the jam cooked in this bread machine. You can see the difference in the body of the jam. The stove top jam reduced by more than 1/3 during cooking, resulting in a thick-set, glossy jam. The bread machine jam on the right is juicier and has saturated the bread with its syrup. Not a bad thing, but an imperfect thing to use on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It would be perfect stirred into yogurt or drizzled on ice cream though.
I will say that I’ve been absolutely blown away by the quality of the bread that the Zojirushi makes. Of course I couldn’t resist using it to bake up a few loaves while it was hanging out in my kitchen and wow. We haven’t bought bread in weeks thanks to this machine.
Now comes the fun part. Zojirushi has given me one bread/jam machine to giveaway to one of my readers, so that you can experience with making your fruit preserves on your counter top. To enter, leave a comment and share a story of jam making (when I taught canning classes at Terrain at Styer’s last summer, I made jam in a barn. That’s where we used camp stoves. It was really, really hot). One entry per person. United States residents only. Winner will be selected at random. Comments will close on Friday, June 24 at 11:59 p.m. and the winner will be posted the next day. Good luck!
Disclosure: Zojirushi gave me a bread machine in which to make jam as well as the one I’m giving away (all of this at no cost). However, my opinions are all my own.