Starter Guide to Fruit Jam, Jelly and Marmalade

July 26, 2020

To put it simply, you can make jam by boiling down any fruit extract to a spreadable consistency – a soft ball stage which is about 112-116°C or 85°Brix. Do tweaks along the line. Add sugar and adjust pH to meet set standard.

The unit of measure °Brix means 1 gram sugar per 100 ml aqueous solution. Pretty straightforward that 85% sugar equates to 85°Brix at 25°C.

I recommend starting with jam, specifically pineapple jam

Pineapple is the easiest to start with. The probability of failure is minimal. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could fail. At rare ripe maturity, pineapple has enough pectin and acid to support gelatinization.

Make it without any additional ingredients

You heard it right! Don’t add water. Why add if it has to evaporate later. Adding sugar and tartaric acid could be skipped too.

The innate fruit sugar content is probably not enough. However, fibers and pectin are to the rescue. Rare ripe fruits have high pectin and fiber content. Pectin, fibers and sugar working together could make the mixture thick enough.

Quality control among batches would be erratic. I hope, you won’t mind subtle changes. It’s healthier but might be off the standard. It’s fine, just name it “pineapple spread.”

Selling fresh pineapples is probably better. Easy money for less cost and effort. Good point! However, you need a backup in case things didn’t go as planned.

Process to add value to low quality and damage fruits

Not all fruits are of good quality. Insect damaged, broken, scarred and too small command lower prices. You might not able to sell them at all. High quality fruits, no matter how careful the handler is, get damage at handling, transport, storage and point of sale.

Jam saves the overripe fruits

After few days, all unsold pineapples are perhaps overripe. They fall below the criteria, reduce pectin content and weaker acidity. The two attributes diminish as the fruit ripens.

So the question. Can you still make jam out of overripe pineapples? My answer is yes. Mix it with rare ripe pineapples for additional pectin or add pectin powder.

The same is true for other fruits such as overripe mangoes and guyabano. You can get a spreadable consistency even without adding anything. Even more so if you add extra sugar and pectin.

Timing is the key to a vividly colored jam

Yellow pineapple is attractive and you want the jam to be as pleasing. Ironically, the result you got after is brown. It is not totally awful, but not the product you imagined.

Well, it boils down to timing. Less cooking time, less color changes.

By leisurely stirring the juice mixture over a low-medium heated pan, you are giving more time for browning reaction to occur.

The longer you cook, the darker it gets.

Thus, practice cooking over a high but manageable heat. Burnt is worse than brown colored.

Choose the right cooking vessel to further lessen cooking time

Increase the surface area where water vapors could rapidly escape. Get the widest pan you can get and not a tall cooking pot. Keep the solution to about two to three inches deep.

Cook to soft ball stage

That is 112-116 degrees °C.

Get a trusty thermometer for consistent result

Thermometer is handy. Repeatedly dipping stainless steel probe into hot liquid is convenient. At near end point temp, leave the probe dipped and turn off the heat as soon as target is reached.

If you refuse, there is other way. Put a drop of mixture into clean water. If it hold its shape, you reached the “end point.” The jam is ready.

However, bear in mind, beyond “end point,” all the drops falling into water will hold its shape. To make things clear, you might test past beyond limit. The jam you are anticipating could be chewy, tough, or powdery.

Yet another end point test is by refractometer

Jam sugar concentration is about 85% which can be read by the instrument of appropriate range. Use of either refractometer or thermometer to determine jam end point is fine. However, thermometer is budget friendly, less durable but easier to replace.

“End point” test might not work

Testing with both thermometer and refractometer might not work at all if you are working with overripe fruits. You still have to test though, but turn off the heat whenever your instinct tells you do to so. Keep a record. Do the next trial batch. Keep on trying!

Check pH too

Testing pH may not be important if you are a casual maker. Cooking only in low volume whenever surplus fruits are available.

However, if you want to grow to a full blown business, you have to have a decent pH meter. Measuring pH every step and adjusting as necessary.

Jelly is the next goal

To make jelly, you just need to get rid of unwanted fibers and you are good to go. Proceed with jam making trick.

But, you have to be accurate this time. You have to have pectin powder in hand or use my all time favorite, rare ripe pineapple. Try overripe pineapple clear extract, without pectin powder, and you are destined to fail.

Where are you taking the separated pulp?

You aimed for the jelly and rigorously filtered off the pulp. Where are you taking the fibers? Compost maybe? Not the idea I expected.

Using the pulp for other recipes would be nice. Like bread and cake. If there is none, you are wasting precious resource. Just go for the jam!

Fruits of citrus family are more suited for jelly

You can extract its juice clean without much effort. On the contrary, inclusion of pulp is the current trend.

“A fiber rich juice for you!”

Players are printing the slogan on label to uplift their products from artificial counterparts.


Marmalade is a jelly with fruit bits and thin peel slices for extra flavor and tang

Fruit bits could be from other types but peel slices are commonly from citrus. You may create a Ponkan Marmalade with Green Mango Bits or Calamansi Marmalade with Raisins.

Similarly, mix and match variety of fruits to create more exciting products. Calamansi Pineapple Jelly, Mango Guyabano Jam and Four Seasons Jam. Imagination and availability of materials are the limits.

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