I was lying in bed the other night, and thought to myself:
I’d never made rose petal jam before even though I’ve seen recipes floating around the internet every once in awhile. The roses in the garden are beautiful right now, and it seemed like a good enough idea. I started the recipe and figured I’d thrown in some rainier cherries and some sliced lemon. Everything looked so pretty macerating in the fridge.
Oh my god, vomit. It’s the most disgusting jam I’ve made in months. Horrible. And it made me think… how can I rationalize writing a post that still includes all these roses?
so here it is…
What To Do When You’re Cooking A Batch Of Jam And Realize That It’s Completely Screwed Up
If you get addicted to jamming, you’ll go through an awkward puberty phase where you’re breaking free from all the recipes in the pectin packet and starting to do your own thing. Things don’t always go well. These are a couple of the bad things that you might run into along the journey, with my hints for minimizing the damage.
It tastes bitter:
- Try adding honey or brown sugar. A cup of honey in a pot of jam can soften up the bitter edge of many citrus fruits. Brown sugar (or other dark sugars) can help too.
It’s way too sweet:
- Try adding some lemon juice. The tart flavor may help balance the sweetness.
- If the jam is only partially cooked, stop cooking it and add more fresh fruit (but no more sugar!).
- Can it as is…. there are some good applications for overly sweet jam, like using it in smoothies or mixed into yogurt, where you won’t notice the sweetness as much.
You realize, midway through, that the fruit on the bottom of the pot has burned:
- Stop stirring immediately. Remove the pot from the heat and, without stirring, pour the jam into a different container. If you stir everything, the burnt fruit will definitely be in the whole batch and make it taste scorched. If you separate the ruined part from the jam that was still potentially fine, you might be able to rescue it. When the jam has cooled down a little bit, taste it and see if the flavors are worth putting into jars or whether it belongs in the compost.
The combination of flavors doesn’t work and it just tastes really gross:
- Throw it away. I used to try and save the jars with grand plans about somehow turning them into something edible, but …. As you know, most jam has a lot of sugar in it. If I’m going to bother eating sugar, I’d much rather it were from a perfect jar of wild blackberry jam, not that gross jar that’s been sitting in the pantry for a year already. Yes, if you have a jar of jam with muddled flavors that didn’t turn out how it was supposed to, you can turn it into a really delicious glaze for stir-fried chicken by adding some soy sauce, chopped scallions and cilantro. You could do all kinds of stuff with it, really. I never end up bothering with those ideas, though, because it usually involves turning what was a really light, healthy dinner into a sugary plate of junk food. For me, it’s usually better to dump it in the compost and move on.
A last word of advice:
I’ve found that if I mess up a batch of jam, the best thing to do is stop canning for the day. If I’m frustrated, I tend to just mess things up even more. It’s usually best just to go do something else instead and come back to the fruit when I’m feeling inspired and excited again. I Try to learn from the experience so that I don’t do it again (rose petals are bitter, and so is the citrus pectin I made awhile back = disaster).
To make failures easier to handle, I try to never buy expensive fruit. If you stick to local fruit when it’s in peak season, the prices should be low and if you mess up a batch or two it really won’t matter very much. Try to remember that this is supposed to be something fun, and don’t get too worried about messing up a batch.