Jam Made Easy

Chris Brown, left, arrives at the Los Angeles County Criminal Courts building in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009. The R&B singer pleaded guilty in June to felony assault. The man at right is unidentified.
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
Making jams sounds hard, but "Cook's Illustrated" magazine's Chris Kimball showed The Saturday Early Show the quick and easy way to do it. He says it requires only 5 to 10 minutes of stovetop cooking.

"Most people think of this as a 19th century activity and one that takes all day and 50 pounds of fruit," said Kimball. "With this streamlined method, one can make jam in 15 minutes and with much less sugar so that the pure, fresh taste of the fruit comes through."

Kimball believes homemade jam should have more fruit than sugar for a cleaner, brighter taste, in comparison to jams sold at the store.

He says his technique can work for any fruit, but each fruit requires a different amount of sugar depending on its sweetness. For a 2 ½ cup recipe, strawberries should have 1 cup of sugar, plums should have 1 cup plus 2 tablespoon sugar and peaches should have 1 ¼ cups sugar. Kimball used peaches for his demonstration.

To prepare the peaches, he placed them in boiling water for 45 seconds and then quickly moved them to a bowl of ice water. Then he peeled the skin off the fruit.

After peeling all the peaches, he pitted the fruit and sliced it, then dumped the fruit into a 12-inch skillet over a medium-high flame, which he then reduced to medium.

Kimball said cooks should be careful not to over-cook the fruit mixture. Overcooked jam that is dark, thick, and smells of caramelized sugar cannot be saved.

Once finished, jam can be eaten right away after it has cooled to room temperature. It can also be kept covered and refrigerated for up to two weeks or kept longer in the freezer. Kimball says these jams are not suitable for canning because canned jam needs more sugar to preserve it.

Kimball says if you don't have the time to cook your own jams, you can try commercial jams. "Cook's Illustrated" taste-tested the following jams, listed in order of preference: Trappist, Smucker¹s Preserves, Hero, Bonne Maman, Smucker¹s Simply 100% Fruit, Smucker¹s Jam, Cascadian Farm Organic, Polaner All Fruit and Whole Foods Organic Jam.

Easy Fresh Fruit Jam

(Cook's Illustrated/ JA 1998 Issue)

Makes 2 1/2 cups

The jam will continue to thicken as it cools, so err on the side of undercooking. Because of its reduced sugar amounts, this jam cannot be canned.

Recipe

1 pound prepared fruit, about 3 cups
About 1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon

Method:

1. Set small bowl over larger bowl of ice water; set aside.

2. In 10- or 12-inch skillet, bring fruit, sugar, and lemon juice to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly and skimming foam as necessary, until mixture begins to look syrupy and thickens slightly, about 5 minutes for strawberries and apricots and 8 to 9 minutes for plums, peaches, and nectarines; remove from heat. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon fruit mixture into bowl over ice water; allow to set for 30 seconds. Tip bowl 45 degrees to one side; jam should be a soft gel that moves slightly. If mixture is liquid and runs to side of bowl, return skillet to heat and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes longer; then repeat test. Cool jam to room temperature before serving. (It will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to two weeks.)

Cream Scones

Makes 8

The easiest and most reliable approach to mixing the butter into the dry ingredients is to use a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Resist the urge to eat the scones hot out of the oven. Letting them cool for at least 10 minutes firms them up and improves their texture.

Recipe:

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, preferably a low-protein brand such as Gold Medal or Pillsbury

1 tablespoon baking powder

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

1/2 cup currants

1 cup heavy cream

Method:

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in large bowl or workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Whisk together or pulse six times.

3. If making by hand, use two knives, a pastry blender, or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few
slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in currants. If using food processor, remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse 12 times, each pulse lasting 1 second. Add currants and pulse one more time. Transfer dough to large bowl.

4. Stir in heavy cream with rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.

5. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, slightly sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Cut scones into 8 wedges. Place wedges on ungreased baking sheet. (Baking sheet can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 hours.)

6. Bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Variations:

Glazed Scones

A light cream and sugar glaze gives scones an attractive sheen and sweeter flavor. If baking scones immediately after making the dough, brush the dough just before cutting it into wedges.

Follow recipe for Cream Scones, brushing tops of scones with 1 tablespoon heavy cream and then sprinkling with 1 tablespoon sugar just before baking them.

Cakey Scones

An egg changes the texture and color of the scones and helps them stay fresher longer, up to 2 days in an airtight container.

Follow recipe for Cream Scones, reducing butter to 4 tablespoons and cream to 3/4 cup. Add 1 large egg, lightly beaten, to dough along with cream.

Oatmeal-Raisin scones

Mix this dough in the food processor; the metal blade breaks down the coarse oats and incorporates them into the dough.

Follow recipe for Cream Scones, making dough in food processor and substituting 1 cup rolled oats for 1/2 cup all-purpose flour. Increase sugar to 4 tablespoons and butter to 6 tablespoons. Replace currants with 3/4 cup raisins.

Ginger Scones

Follow recipe for Cream Scones, substituting 1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger for currants.