My latest obsession is making jams. Luscious, lip smacking, fresh-as-the-fruit-it-came-from jam. A month ago Mum left a dozen gooseberries (amla) soaked in water on the kitchen counter, with explicit instructions to drink it every day. Them gooseberries sat pretty on the counter for a week till I remembered. By then, they were soft and mushy and I didn’t have the heart to throw them away, so into the kadhai they went.
That’s when I learnt something interesting: making a small batch of jam is one of the easiest things to do.
It definitely is easier than it looks, once the pectin and sugar have worked magic to transform into glistening jelly. The recipe is easy-peasy: take an equal proportion of fruit to sugar, cook the fruit (diced, mushed or pureed, it’s your call) in a bit of water. Since gooseberries are harder to blend than most fruits, soak it for a day or cook in water till a little tender, before removing the seeds and pulverising the fruit in the blender. Once it’s softened, add the sugar and lime juice (the juice from a lemon would do for a cup of fruit) and let it come to a rolling boil (on high heat). Don’t skimp on the sugar, as the reaction between pectin and sugar gives jam its jelly-like consistency. If the mixture looks watery even after boiling for several minutes, it probably needs more pectin: add a squeeze of lemon or orange.
The major ingredient in jam making is pectin, found naturally in citrus fruits. High-pectin fruits gel faster. Over-ripe fruits have lesser amounts of pectin, so they don’t set as well. Lucky me, I started with amla, which any Indian mother will tell you is brimming with Vitamin C (as well as pectin).