I usually only post about what we're cooking or have cooked but I just spent some time looking for new jam for those late night sugar cravings. Sometimes just eating a peanut butter and jam sandwich satisfies that craving instead of breaking out the ice cream so I like to keep it around. We have massive blackberry bushes in the back yard which makes excellent jam but unfortunately I didn't beat the birds to them last year. When I make jam I combine Blackberries, a little bit of plums and cane sugar for a nice clean taste. Plums are high in natural pectin so there's no need to add commercial pectin. Pectin needs sugar in order to thicken a jam but natural pectin needs 1/3 less than commercial pectin. This allows me to have more fruit, less sugar and no added pectin which is all good. My rant is that I don't have any jam from last year so I'm relying on off the shelf jams. After reading Omnivore's delima I'm also trying to avoid the petrolium based preservatives and corn syrup.
My rant starts here... Just go through the ingredients list of most jams and such a simple thing becomes very complex fast. Some of them have as many as 15 ingredients. Even the best (usually imported) have about 5 ingredients. Most have more than one type of sugar including sugar, cane sugar, glucose syrup, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. We're still talking about berries that are full of sugar right? Why are we adding so much sugar to our jam? Then there's the preservatives. We're adding preservatives to a canned food.. Is this so it can sit in the fridge for 3 years after opening it? So I dug through all the jars and settled on the Safeway branded Jam which only had 2 types of sugars and one preservative. I think the worst offenders were Smuckers (no surprise there) and the best was the imported jams. Although the one we eat in Paris is also available in the stores here but the ingredients list is different here (longer) which I suppose is because of food regulations in the states.
My question is this - since the jam we make is really nice why can't they do that on a commercial level. Maybe the berries they're using aren't ready to be picked so they need to add massive sugar to cut the tartness. I do know one thing, as soon as my berris are ripe I'm making jam, lots of it!