For months now, I’ve been working on finding a way to make a jam from apples that is satisfying and, well, jammy. The problem with apples is if you try and cook them raw with sugar, which is the way you approach the fruit in most jam recipes, the apples don’t break down. They stay hard and firm, releasing little of their sugars and leaving you with a final product that is closer to marmalade than jam.
In some recipes, such as my Cranberry-Apple Jam, this isn’t such a bad thing. The cranberries and sugar do the jammy work, and the apples add nice texture and mouthfeel. But up until down, I’ve found that making a good jam with apples as the primary fruit just hasn’t been all that great (I did get close with my Apple-Ginger Jam, but it still wasn’t quite right). That is, until now.
This time, I cooked the apples down into a sauce with two cups of lemon juice before adding the sugar. And this did the trick. I got close to the texture I wanted from the fruit before I added the sugar (ensuring I’d get what I wanted once the sugar and honey was added), and I was able to infuse the tart flavor of the lemons fully into the jam to boot (this is a great way to get a whole variety flavors into jam, I’m already envisioning lavender, more ginger or chai spices).
You may be wondering why I’m so excited to find a good apple jam technique. Well, apples are cheap, abundant and store really well. I overbought at the fall farmers’ markets and so had an entire crisper drawer full that needed to be used (and I have plenty of applesauce and butter already stashed away). And, I just like apples. I think they’re endlessly adaptable and knew there was a way to make them do jam nicely.
Before, I jump to the recipe, I want to talk pectin. I do include one envelope (half of the contents of a box) of liquid pectin in this recipe. However, many apples are naturally high in pectin. If you’re working with green or under-ripe apples, you might not need to add any pectin. But if you’re using old apples that have been in your fridge for a couple of months, adding a little pectin is good insurance that your jam will have a good set.
- 12 cups chopped apples
- 2 cups lemons juice (I used a combination of freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice and bottled)
- 2 cups honey
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 envelope of liquid pectin (can be omitted if you use a few firm, green apples)
- zest of three lemons
- Prepare your canning pot, as well as seven pint jars, lids and rings.
- Combine the chopped apples and lemon juice in a large, heavy-bottomed pot (an enameled Dutch oven works well here) and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the apples have broken down. When you’ve got a nice, chunky applesauce, add the honey and sugar and stir to incorporate.
- Bring the fruit to a boil and cook for at least five minutes at a roll (watch out though, it will bubble and depending on the size of your pot, can get a little splashy). Add pectin and boil for a few minutes more, to active the pectin. When it seems nice and jammy, turn off the heat and stir in the lemon zest.
- Fill jars, wipe rims (this jam is sticky, so you may need to add a bit of white vinegar to your towel, to help ensure a clean rim), apply lids and screw on bands. Process in a boiling water canner for ten minutes (if you are above 1,000 feet in altitude, adjust your processing time accordingly).
- Eat on toast, spoon on muffins or use to glaze roasted chicken pieces.