Soft Spreads - Jams, Jellies & Fruit Spreads
Soft spread, sometime referred to as sweet spread, produce the most satisfaction and pride of all home canning recipes. They make charming gifts when tied with a ribbon or tucked in a basket filled with baked goods. Soft spreads are easy to make and hard to resist, these delectable spreads are perfect for any meal. When your home is filled with the fragrant aroma of sweet spreads simmering on the stove, you are preserving memories that last a lifetime.
There are four main ingredients in soft spreads: fruit, sugar, pectin and acid. The consistency of soft spreads vary from a firm set for jellies to a soft, honey-like consistency for preserves. Each type of soft spread requires slightly different cooking techniques.
Never double a soft spread recipe or adjust the sugar amount. Recipe are balanced to achieve a specific consistency and texture. Any alteration or adjustment to the recipe will upset the perfect chemical balance and adversely affect your spread by producing inferior results. If you want to double the recipe, make it twice. If you would like to use less sugar, search for another recipe that uses your desired amount.
Sweet spreads come in a variety of forms and textures. The various types of soft spreads are as follows:
Fruit Butter is a smooth, thick spread made by cooking fruit pulp and sugar to a thick consistency that will spread easily. Butters normally use less sugar and spices may be added to enhance the flavor. Butters are cooked slowly until thick enough to round up on a spoon.
Conserves are jam-like products made with a combination of two or more fruits, nuts and raisins. Conserves are cooked until they round up on a spoon. If nuts are used, they can be added during the last five minutes of cooking.
Jams are made by cooking crushed or chopped fruits with sugar until the mixture will round up on a spoon. Jams can be made of one fruit or a combination of fruits. Jams are cooked until the pieces of fruit are soft and almost lose their shape. It should be firm but spreadable; jams do not hold the shape of the jar.
Juice strained from fruit is used to make jelly. The fruit juice is combined with sugar, and sometimes pectin. It is usually prepared in a way that keeps the juice transparent and shimmering with a bright color. Jelly is gelatinized enough to hold its shape, yet jiggle, when removed from the jar, and soft enough to spread easily.
Marmalade is a soft jelly containing small pieces of fruit and rind (usually citrus) evenly suspended in the transparent jelly. Marmalade is cooked in small batches and brought rapidly to (or almost to) the gelling point. Marmalades are similar in structure to jam.
Fruit is preserved with sugar so it retains its shape. It is transparent, shiny, tender and plump. Preserves contain cooked fruit, sugar and sometimes pectin and have a jam-like consistency, but with whole or large pieces of fruit. The syrup varies from the thickness of honey to that of soft jelly. A true preserve doesn't hold its shape when spooned from the jar.