Temperature for jam making?

tracydr(9b)June 9, 2010

So, I'm not an experienced candy maker, bear with me if this seems stupid.

I'm at a little less than 2000 feet in elevation. Can't seem to get my jam temps higher than about 210 no matter how hot or how long they boil. I'm trying to make a couple of no-added pectin recipes from Mes Confitures.

She says I need to take the jam or syrup to 221. What do I do? I got what appears to be a soft-set on the blackberry jam and I'm boiling my apricot syrup right now.

I got fed up trying to wait for the raspberry chocolate the other day. I added liquid certo and the end product is thicker than I would like.

I've tried all four of my thermometers BTW so I think the temp is accurate.

Thanks for any advice you can give to a newbie!

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readinglady(z8 OR)

You're operating under some misapprehensions.

The jell point is 8 degrees above boiling, which at sea level is 220 degrees. For a firm set you can go to 221, but it isn't necessary and can result in overcooking.

Now, at altitude, 8 degrees above boiling will NOT be 220 or 221. Instead it's 220 degrees only from sea level up to 1,000 feet; 216 degrees at 2,000 feet; 214 degrees at 3,000 feet; 212 degrees at 4,000 feet; 211 degrees at 5,000 feet; 209 degrees at 6,000 feet; 207 degrees at 7,000 feet; 205 degrees at 8,000 feet.

It can take a long time to reach the jell point, depending upon your stove, your pan and the size of the batch. Also, water content varies in fruits and the jell point isn't going to be reached until enough water has been evaporated out to the point that the preserve is 65% sugar concentration.

You can speed things up by warming the sugar before adding it to the preserve.

Candy-making, preserves, anything involving cooked sugar syrups, caramelizing, etc. will all be influenced by altitude.

Also, keep in mind processing times change with altitude. (Your Ball Blue Book should have a chart somewhere or check the NCHFP online.) So instead of 10 minutes your jams should be processed for 15.


    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 5:49PM
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This is exactly what I needed. Was aware of the processing difference but not the jell point. I scorched my apricots just a bit trying to get it right. They taste yummy though so hopefully all is good.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 10:18PM
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tracy, I'm too late to be of help, but I can tell you that my jams go from "not done" to "taffy" quickly. They seem to boil and boil and boil and not increase temperature at all and suddenly, it's done.

I just knew Carol would have an exact answer, though.

Oh, and those apricots? That's not "scorched". It's "caramelized". (grin)


    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 4:44PM
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Annie, that's funny. I thought the same thing about the apricots. They took on a lovely amber color and taste great!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 6:27PM
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mellyofthesouth(9a FL)

Apparently the current barometric pressure can also influence the boiling point of water but I think that is taking it to too fine a point. I just use the temp as a guide (I use the cold plate method) but find mine usually set before reaching such a high temperature. (I'm only 17 ft above sea level so 212 works for me.)

Here is a link that might be useful: http://twoloonscoffee.com/map/boiling_point.php

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 6:43PM
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I ran into the same thing maple sugaring. I have a hygrometer, but couldn't find an appropriate container to use it in, so went by the old timey directions. It said basically what reading lady said. Observe when the liquid first comes to a boil (since maple sap is nearly all water) and use that as 212 and count from there.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 6:49PM
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I think it boiled at 207. Does that seem too low. For Mesa, AZ? As I said, I verified with four thermometers. I got up to 215 but it still looks syrupy in the jars today. That's fine since it's whole apricots but the BB jam also seems runny.
Maybe if I'm canning tomorrow I'll add pectin to the berries and reprocess. I assume since it's the lower sugar I need to use NS or Pomona pectin?
Next time I will try the lemon seeds and rind. They do have a full fresh lemon-orange each.
I call them lemon-oranges because they look and smell like oranges and tasted like lemons until recently as they are now overripe.
No idea what kind of citrus they actually are but they sure are good!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 10:50PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

Apricots are low pectin and low acid, so even reaching the jell point you're going to find the preserve tends to be syrupy. There's only so much pectin there to work with.

You can amend the preserve by using apple pectin stock or by adding high-pectin products like citrus, but apricots are delicate and the purity of the apricot flavor will probably be subsumed.

The peach preserves in Ferber's book are fabulous and it's the same thing - syrupy even at the jell point. But the flavor is unequalled, so I accept it.

You can "assist" the set by using the old-fashioned strategy of 25% underripe fruit. The less ripe the more pectin so preserves with a measure of underripe fruit will set better. As fruit ripens the cell walls collapse, and that's where the pectin is (mainly).

However, in a true preserve with larger pieces of fruit suspended in syrup I wouldn't use really underripe apricots because biting into one wouldn't be the most pleasant experience. I'd go for ripe and full-flavored, but on the firmer end. Dead-ripe and you're set for failure. (No pun intended, LOL.)


    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 12:55AM
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I agree, those peach preserves are amazing, they taste so much of fresh peach and the flavor is well worth the softer set I get.

the apples here took a devastating whack with the late frost, I'm hoping the peaches escaped unscathed.


    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 10:42AM
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mellyofthesouth(9a FL)

The last time I made preserves from Mes Confitures, I squashed some of the fruit with a potato masher and added it to the syrup to thicken it a little. So it ends up like a cross between jam and preserves. I usually try to err on the side of under-cooked rather than over-cooked.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 11:10AM
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Thanks Melly! Good tip!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 6:58PM
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I did use some unripe cots. I'll have to give the peach preserves a try. I don't mind runny preserves, all the better on a scone or crepe!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 12:36AM
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