Most of the time, I do my preserving in relatively small batches. However, as we begin to approach the gift giving time of year, I take inventory of what I have in the pantry and then make a few very large batches to round out the selection (Scott likes to give his co-workers some of my jams and pickles, and I typically put together gift bags for neighbors and family members).
One fruit I rely on heavily for these larger, holiday-themed batches is the mighty cranberry. It has great flavor, contains a goodly amount of pectin (which means there’s never any doubt that it will set up), and goes beautifully with all manner of wintertime fare.
This is not my first go-round with cranberry jam (I shared a basic batch the first year this site was around and did a tin can molded version back in 2011), but I like this one because it has plenty of flavor and retains its essential tartness. Of course, if you want to temper the boldness of the cranberry, you can try pear cranberry jam, cranberry marmalade, apple cranberry jam, or cranberry quince sauce.
When making this jam for gift giving, I cook it until the berries are mostly popped and will sometimes use a potato masher to help break it down a bit more. If you prefer a smoother spread, you could either introduce an immersion blender or push the jam through a food mill for something that it mostly skin and seed-free.
Because cranberries are quite high in acid, this is a recipe you play around with a little without causing unsafe conditions. Swap out the spices and drop in a vanilla bean instead. Use more orange zest and juice for a citrusy punch. Go wild and add a little cayenne or ancho chili powder to provide some heat. Unless you start adding handfuls of garlic and onion, you’d be hard pressed to make an unsafe cranberry jam.
Oh, and one more note about cranberries. If you like sweet and tangy things and you haven’t tried my pickled cranberries yet, consider making up a batch while they’re in stores this season.
Now your turn. What cranberry jams, sauces, and jellies are you making this time of year?
Spiced Cranberry Jam
- 3 pounds fresh cranberries about 12-14 cups
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 3 cups apple cider
- 1 lemon zested and juiced
- 1 orange zested and juiced
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- Prepare a boiling water bath and necessary jars. Place lids in a small saucepan and bring to a bare simmer.
- Combine the cranberries, sugar, cider, and orange and lemon juice and zest in a large pot (use a big one, this jam will bubble) over high heat.
- Bring to a boil, skimming off the foam that develops on the top of the fruit. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until the cranberries pop.
- Add the ginger, cinnamon, and cloves and stir to combine.
- Continue to cook, stirring regularly, until the jam looks quite thick. If it appears to be thickening too much before all the cranberries are popped, add a splash of water to loosen.
- Ladle jam into jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for ten minutes.