I was up visiting my brother and his family last week. He lives a couple hours north of Seattle, and since I’ve had more time on my hands lately I’ve been able to visit mid-week a few times. My brother, Jason, had Friday off, so we had a “brother-sister day.” We have been talking for a while about making jam together, and we were finally able to make it happen. It was so fun!
Neither of us really took the time to learn to make jam from Mom. We both helped her a time or two, but didn’t really absorb the process. It was great being able to share this family tradition with Jason, I hope we’ll be able to make another batch next summer. If you haven’t already done canning with friends or family, do it soon! Humans bond over food, and preparing it together is a really wonderful experience.
Anyway, so we went to the store to see what was in season. There were some nice looking pears (Comice) on sale, and I remembered a recipe I’ve been meaning to make for a couple months. Pear and cranberry jam – yummy and seasonal!
A quick note about Comice pears: eat as many as you can while they are in season. Holy smokes, they are phenomenal! I know I’ve had them in the past, but never noted how juicy and sweet they are. In fact, if I had known they are so juicy, I would have adjusted the amount liquid in the recipe. They are the only pears I’ve every seen turn to mush unassisted when cooked. I made apple-pear-sauce this weekend (to put on French toast), and I barely had to smash them. And the flavor is exactly what a pear should taste like, only better. OK, digression over.
I like this jam a lot. It’s like a sweeter cranberry sauce, and you can really taste the pears and the cranberries. Very festive! And since cranberries have a lot of pectin already (I mean, cranberry sauce is basically low-sugar no-pectin jam) you don’t need to add any. It would probably also be delicious with vanilla, cinnamon, or other warm winter spices.
Recipe (from Food in Jars)
Makes 2 ½ pints, or 5 half-pint jars
4 cups pears, seeded and chopped (we peeled ours, but it isn’t necessary)
4 cups fresh cranberries
3 cups sugar
Juice and zest of one lemon
Up to 1 cup water (optional)
Wash the fruit. Pick out any bad cranberries, then measure 4 cups and put in a large non-reactive saucepan. (We found 1 bag of ocean spray was just about a half cup shy of this, next time I might just adjust everything down to keep my purchase to one bag.)
Core and chop the pears. We also peeled ours. Pears ripen from the inside out, and ours weren’t fully ripe at the skin level yet. The pulp was so delicious; we wanted only that in our jam. But if you leave the skin on it will soften and melt as it cooks.
Put fruit and sugar into a large pot, and let sit for a few minutes, to let the sugar dissolve into the pear juice. If your pears aren’t releasing any juice at this point, add a little water. The original recipe suggests one cup, but for our juicy pears that was way too much. We had to cook the jam for an extra half hour to get it to the right consistency. Use your best judgment, and remember you can always add more water (or cook longer to reduce the water out.)
Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for 15-25 minutes, until the jam is at a consistency you like. It will firm up as it cools, so try doing a plate test. As I mentioned above, we added a cup of water but probably shouldn’t have, so it took about an hour to cook down to a solid set.
Stir in lemon zest and juice. You could add this earlier, but adding it at the end preserves the flavor more.
Fill into hot sterilized jars, put on lids, and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.