It may be a bit chilly now, but in just a short time, a bounty of strawberries and other fruit will be ready to be picked.
One of the best ways to preserve these beauties is to make jam or jelly. Preserves make excellent gifts and wonderful pantry staples; they could even help you win a ribbon at the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles.
Fruits have varying levels of natural pectin, a soluble gelatinous substance present in ripe fruit, which helps to make jam firm.
Some fruit have enough pectin to set a jam without adding commercial pectin, but others require help. That’s where commercial pectins come in. Made from apple or citrus fruits, they are available in powdered or liquid form.
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It is important to use ripe, unbruised fruit. Over-ripe, bruised or insect-infested produce can affect the finished product’s quality and safety.
It is also essential to use a tested recipe from a reputable source when preserving fruit, especially if you want to make low- or no-sugar jam. Some artificial sweeteners are not suitable for substituting in preserves.
In basic jams and jellies, using approved ingredients ensures food safety in the preserving process. That sugar isn’t just added for sweetness.
You can also make jam without cooking and canning. Freezer jam is very quick and easy to make, and it will keep in your freezer for up to one year.
Jams and jellies can be challenging to set or gel, but help is on the way for Central Coast residents.
A UCEE Master Food Preserver workshop, “Spread the Goodness: All About Jams and Jellies,” will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Los Alamos Valley Men’s Club, 429 Leslie St. in Los Alamos. Admission is $5.
For more information, and to sign up for the workshop, visit http://ucanr.edu/jamsandjellies,