For this assignment, I decided to make grapefruit jam. I love grapefruit, and my house is always full of it, so when I came across a recipe for grapefruit jam, I knew that I wanted to try it. As I have never preserved anything before, I did a bit of research into the technicality of it. Here are some articles I found to help with the jamming process:
How to Ensure That Your Jam Sets
7 Tips to Make Sure Your Jam Sets Up
Learning to be Flexible
Some Canning Questions/Answers
As you can see, one of the best resources I found was Food in Jars, which also is where I found the grapefruit jam recipe. While I also look at sites like The Kitchn, I found that Food in Jars was very helpful because their main occupation is preservation, so they have been through it all.
Before getting into the recipe, I thought I would go over some of the history of jam making. While there is no exact timeline on when jam was first made, one thing that is agreed upon is that people have been making jam for centuries, with the first known recipe being published in Culinary Matters in 1561. Jamming likely was introduced to Europe around the time of the Crusades, when soldiers returning from the Middle East brought back this delicacy. It is thought that the process of jamming originating in the East because of the easy access to cane sugar.
Today, there are 8 most popular flavours of jam (listed in descending order): strawberry, grape, red raspberry, apricot, orange marmalade, apple, blueberry and cherry. In terms of production, in the US, people eat about 1.5 pounds of jam and jelly a year, and about 1 billion pounds of preserves are produced annually.
The Recipe (Source)
Small Batch Grapefruit Jam
Yield: 2 Pints
8 large red grapefruit (approximately 4 pounds) (Note: I used 9 because the grapefruit I had had extremely thick skins)
2 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
Start by supreming the grapefruit. Do this by cutting the top and bottom off. Then, working from north pole to south, cut the rind off the fruit (you want to expose the interior surface of the fruit). When rind is entirely removed, use the knife to separate the fruit from the membrane of the fruit.
Collect the naked fruit sections and their juice in a large bowl. Set any seeds you find aside. Bundle them up in a length of cheesecloth. They’ll give the jam an extra hit of pectin.
Once all the fruit is supremed, pour it into a large, non-reactive pot and add the sugar and the cheesecloth bundle containing the seeds. Stir until the sugar begins to dissolve.
Turn the heat to high and bring the fruit mixture to a boil. Cook at a bubble, stirring regularly, until the jam reaches 220 degrees and passes the plate/sauce/wrinkle test (remove the pot from the heat source while you’re testing to prevent scorching).
When the jam passes these set tests, pour into prepared jars. Apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for ten minutes.
When time is up, remove jars from canner and let them cool on a folded kitchen towel. When jars are cool to the touch, remove rings and test seals. Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used first.
To ensure that I made the most out of my jam, I decided to eat it a few ways: straight off a spoon, on toast, in a PB&J sandwich, and in a cookie.
Straight Off a Spoon
- How does this appeal to the five basic tastes – salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami?
- The first taste is off sweetness, and it is quite pleasant, if not slightly cloying. Then the sourness of grapefruit comes out, and it is pretty overpoweringly tart. I expected it to be bitter for some reason (must have been the grapefruit) but it was more tart than bitter. The tartness stays in your mouth for awhile
- Use your sense of Taste, Smell, Sight, Hearing and Touch; what do you observe with each?
- Smell: it smells a bit cloying sweet, but the aroma is pretty faint, there is a bitter edge to the smell, but doesn’t really remind me of grapefruit, there is none of the freshness and zippiness that is in the smell
- Sight: It is a reddish orange, a bit brighter than blood orange, but darker than true orange
- It has a definite texture, where the pips of the grapefruit are still visible, but more gluttonous. They are not super defined, but woven together. The pips, while still present, have a jelly like quality and stick together
- When dropped off the spoon, all move together is a gelatinous clump
- Hearing: They don’t really make a sound, a faint ‘clump’ when dropped off the spoon
- When tapped, have a slight bouncy sound, like water lapping, or a thick and sticky liquid hitting the side of something
- Touch: Sticky without actually sticking to my finger, it is brought up to a peak, and then falls off. The peak doesn’t not stay, but the jam retracts back into itself, keeping its shape
- Mouth Feel: It is very chewy and textured, as the pips are pretty gummy but still present. It just tastes sweet – sticky and gummy and thick.
- Are there relatable or similar flavours that you detect? “Tastes like…..”
- Tastes like overly sugared grapefruit, but it doesn’t really taste like true grapefruit
- Overall: Good, but not great. It was super sweet, and then super tart, so there wasn’t really a smooth flow of flavour. It was sticky in your mouth, so I had to chew a bit to get out all the flavour. I was expecting more of a grapefruit flavour to be present.
This was pretty yummy! The bread was able to balance out the tartness and cloying sweetness of the jam, making the flavours more approachable. This allowed the citrusy flavour to come out, and it made me think of grapefruit more than just eating it straight off a spoon did. While it did make the bread soggy (which could be the fact that I made it about 20 minutes before eating it), eating the jam this way allowed the more subtle flavours to come out.
With Peanut Butter
I expected this to be gross, but it wasn’t. It certainly wasn’t delicious, but it was not as absurd a combination as I was expecting. The one thing that happened was that the peanut butter overpowered the jam, and the main taste was the super tartness that was present when eating the jam straight. Interestingly, the sweetness of the jam didn’t come through, which I was expecting because I was using unsweetened peanut butter. Instead, the tartness of the jam just grows in your mouth, barely detectable on the first bite, but the time you are done chewing, it is much more powerful.
In a Cookie
Since the jam was so sweet, I thought that it would work well in a cookie, so set around making cut out shortbread ones. Well, I was wrong. While it tastes fine, it is not amazing, as the shortbread doesn’t serve to bring out the complex flavours of the jam, and instead it simply tastes tart. This jam also is not the best for a shortbread cookie, because it is not sweet enough to make this cookie a dessert. While one might think that the sweet and sour qualities of the cookie would balance very well, the flavours fight with each other instead of complementing each other.
- How is this food unique?
- This food is unique because I had never heard of grapefruit jam before. Grapefruit is one of those things that you eat when you are dieting, and it isn’t really consumed by the general public, mostly due to the fact that is can be difficult to eat and it very tart. I love grapefruit, so I was excited to try this out.
- What did you learn about your palate?
- I learned that if I had to choose between sweet and crisp, I would go for crisp. One thing I love about grapefruit is the zippiness of it, and the freshness you get in your mouth when you eat one, and I felt that this was missing.
- Did you enjoy this food?
- It was surprisingly good! I wasn’t sure about how grapefruit would become a jam, and how the different flavours would play off each other, but it turned out to be delicious when paired with the appropriate food.
- Would you eat it again? Why or why not?
- I will, if only because I have about half a litre of jam sitting on my counter. However, I vastly prefer fresh grapefruit to the jammed kind, because the latter is missing the crispness that I love about the fruit.
- Are there certain flavours you find more or less appealing?
- One of the main things that I disliked about the jam was the cloying sweetness that one first tastes. I have a major sweet tooth, but the jam coated my mouth and the sweetness didn’t feel fresh. The tartness was also a bit shocking, but became more appealing as I got used to the jam, and especially once the jam was spread on toast, because it was tempered a bit, and other citrusy flavours were allowed to shine.
- How has this experience changed the way in which you will taste, analyse and use foods in your cooking?
- By trying out the jam in different ways, this showed me how flavours can change based on a foods’ combination. It was remarkable how much more nuanced the jam became when I ate it on toast, compared to the simple 2 tastes that I was getting by eating the jam off of a spoon. This showed me how important food pairing is, because it can make a simple dish quite complex. In the future, I will think more about the sides and toppings I am putting on food, to ensure that a balance is achieved, and no one food is overpowering another.
The Jamming Process
In all the reading I did, one thing that was not stressed (and really should have been stressed) was that patience is a virtue when it comes to jamming. The recipe I used said that it would cook up in 20 minutes, so when that time hit, and my jam was still very pippy and not sticking together, I was sure I had done something wrong. I was running through options in my head for other things that I could make for this project. But, after doing some additional reading, I finally realized that sometimes jam takes some time to make, and there is nothing you can do about it.
Successes: I think the main success was that I actually made jam! I have never made anything like this before, so was going in completely blind, and to have it turn out is a big win in my books! Even though the final product is more marmalade than jam, it’s still edible, which I’m very happy about.
Failures: Well, I didn’t exactly make jam, so I guess that is the biggest failure, but (harking back to the successes paragraph), as I had never preserved anything before, it’s still a win in my books.
What I would do differently: I think next time I would be more careful with my segmenting. The grapefruits I bought had super thick skins, so I really had to dig in to get out the grapefruit sections, but I think next time I’ll take my time with it more and really make sure all the skin and white bits are carved off. I also would be more careful to collect the seeds. I think one of the main reasons why the finished product was more of marmalade than a jam is that I didn’t save any of the seeds because I couldn’t find any cheesecloth in my house. Next time, I would ensure I have some, because I think that would speed up the cooking process as well make this product actually jam. One last thing I would do would be to use smaller jars. At my local grocery store, they only had litre jars, and as I didn’t have access to a car to drive anywhere else to get smaller ones, I was stuck with them. I think next time, I would use smaller ones so that I’m not forced to now eat almost a litre of jam before it spoils.
This was my first and last wrinkle test. I was super impatient, and did the first after 20 minutes, and when it didn’t work, I thought that I had ruined my entire batch! But I gave it a little bit more time, and sure enough, the jam passed the test!