Mulberry Jam/Jelly
July 15, 2014 6:59 PM   Subscribe

Hey there, does anyone have a reliable Mulberry jam/jelly recipe? I've tried the one at 'pick your own' and it doesn't set reliably! Its the first time I've worked with mulberries (I'd never even heard of them before this year) and I am really having a hard time getting it to set! I seem to have to double cook each batch and double the pectin? I am NOT an experienced jam maker, would appreciate any advice or insight.

I did some reading, I am working with
4 cups juice
2 tbsp. of lemon juice
5cups of sugar

This would seem to be the right ratios? and I keep at the hard boil for over a min, and and and I let it cool for 5 mins before putting it in the jars? I test it on a spoon, seems fine....then it doesn't set? *shakes head*

posted by Weeping Angel to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I haven't worked with mulberries specifically, but I've worked with a ton of other fruits and berries. To me it sounds like you're not boiling it for nearly long enough. I seem to end up boiling most cooked jams for at least 10 minutes, and usually longer. Has the jam thickened at all before you go to test it? If not, then that's your problem.

How are you testing the set? I like a cold plate from the freezer but there are a lot of different methods as well as a lot of factors that can affect setting. (Link is to Food in Jars, which is a great source of intro canning info.)

Are you doubling any batches? If so, don't do that. Single batches are more reliable and turn out better. Also, if you're using powdered pectin, you may find the liquid stuff is more reliable. You can also switch to a calcium-activated low-sugar pectin like Pomona's. (I have heard that Pomona's will more reliably set up, but takes longer to do so. Haven't worked with it yet myself.)
posted by pie ninja at 7:13 PM on July 15, 2014

Response by poster: the pectin recipies all say to only boil it for a min at hard boil...not to over boil it?
It is quite thick and it seeeems to set, but then doesn't?
I put some on a teaspoon and leave it to see if it's set (away from heat)

and ironically, the last batch I made, the 'sample' I left out in a small gladware container, my 'test' set fine....and the jars did not!?!?

How long do YOU boil it with all the ingredients in?

Oh and no, never doubled the batch, everyone seems to agree that's a bad idea.
Also, in Canada, so can't get all the cool stuff the States gets! lol
posted by Weeping Angel at 7:21 PM on July 15, 2014

Oh, yeah, Pomona's is your friend. They have lots of good info on their website and in their package inserts. It's way more adaptable than standard pectins. I've used it for years and never had it fail.

Go to this page on their website. Search for mulberry. They have a section on mulberry jam and in the comments someone asks about juice for jelly.

And just a suggestion, until you get some experience under your belt, your best bet is to use tested recipes. Bernardin also has lots of good info.
posted by Beti at 7:23 PM on July 15, 2014

Response by poster: Doesn't appear they sell Pomona's in Canada? it won't give me any store locations, at least not near me. I like it though, much less sugar, maybe I'll get some for next year.

I was just looking at the Bernardin site, they DO have a recipe up for it....Double the sugar to a lot and a lot more lemon juice....interesting, maybe my ratio's are off?

I have to recook the last batch. Think If I just add more sugar and some lemon juice and cook it longer it could set?
I'd already used double the pectin in it!
posted by Weeping Angel at 7:31 PM on July 15, 2014

Mulberries are naturally low in pectin. And, pectin breaks down the longer you cook the fruit. I think your double-cooking and recooking is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

I made some peach jam last year that never set. I processed it anyway. And, though it was runny and wasn't suitable for spreading on toast, it was excellent over ice cream.

I think you might be at that point....
posted by mudpuppie at 7:34 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Okay, jam maker with 3 years experience here. Here's what I think may be going on - I wonder if the jam's fine, but your experience of jam is just...different.

When you say the jam "doesn't set" - can you explain what is making you think that's the case? That'll help me figure out what may be going wrong. Because it sounds like you're doing everything right, so I wonder if maybe you may be thinking it's supposed to look a certain way when it never is no matter what you do.

In terms of "now what do I do" - even if I'm wrong in my guess, and it's just not setting, I would just give up and call it "sauce" or something. It's still cooked fruit and you can do a lot of stuff with that even if it's not jam - whip it into whipped cream for a fruit fool, drizzle it over ice cream, stir it into yogurt...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:36 PM on July 15, 2014

What I mean by asking "what makes you think it's not setting" - tell me what you're EXPECTING to see it do, and then tell me what you ARE seeing it do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:38 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

As far as where to purchase, is there a Whole Foods or other health foods store near you? That's where I've always found it.

And sometimes jams/jellies take sitting out for quite a while, like overnight, to set up. Make the jam, process it and then let the jars set out overnight on the counter. Check the seals and the set in the morning.
posted by Beti at 7:47 PM on July 15, 2014

Response by poster: good questions.

I am expecting it to come out like a jelly? or a jam...with a non-runny texture.

I have had 3 batches done, I had one work fine. sets, it's not to 'liquid' and it spreads like a jam on toast, that is what I am going for.

On the certo instructions it says if it doesn't set, boil it back up and ad another packet of certo and any 'missing' ingredients and boil again for another full min at hard boil.

I did that on my 'liquid' batches, and they firmed up after that. and by liquid, I mean like tomato juice, it's thick, but more of a drink then a spread. And sure, the liquid has uses, but I don't really want em, I want jam/jelly....I'm stubborn like that! lol

last batch is 2 days old. it's tomato's gotta be fixed.

so DO I boil it for longer? does boiling it for longer break down the pectin?
Jars are also sealing fine, not a problem there :-)

Oh and in Windsor, no whole foods, but I might know somewhere to look for it!
posted by Weeping Angel at 8:04 PM on July 15, 2014

Response by poster: Oh and I did have one batch that DID firm up after left for about 36 yeah, I did find that too.

So in short, it does work. But I can't seem to get it to work in ONE cooking.....I'd rather not have to 'fix' it every time.

I think I need to seriously increase the amount of sugar now? that Bernadin recipe is using much more then I am.....
posted by Weeping Angel at 8:09 PM on July 15, 2014

Best answer: Hmm. Okay, that does help.

The amount of sugar you have should be fine...try this, though. Next time you make a batch of jam, get a candy thermometer when you cook it, and boil it until it reaches 220 degrees. I've read that any jam that gets up to 220 degrees will ALWAYS jell, and every time I've made jam I've used that rule of thumb and it almost always works. Some jam does have a soft set, yes, but it at least sets.

I wouldn't try re-boiling something that's been boiled a couple times already - I'd give up and call it sauce.

Also you said something set after 36 hours; I"m wondering, how long are you leaving the jars alone after you can them? Sometimes it takes a little while. 36 hours is a bit excessive, yeah, but usually the recipes I"ve seen say to leave the jars alone for 12 hours (granted, I'm canning the jam upon making it).

But that 220 degrees trick always works. I wonder if you're not cooking it long enough. I don't use that whole cold-saucer-in-the-fridge method, the thermometer way to tell is WAY easier.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:18 PM on July 15, 2014

Response by poster: this batch is a first time one....about to 're-make' it for the first time, like a few before.

I usually leave them alone for 24 hours....and sometimes it's made a difference, other not at all. I will see if I have a candy thermometer, I should....although I find them a bit unreliable for cooking with. Caramel has a set point as well, and I have made that and yeah, if it doesn't get to that one point, it's pooched.

you really don't think I should add the additional what? 3 cups of sugar? (if I'm going by the ratio in that Berardin recipe....that's what I am missing?

I'm really surprised at what a crap shoot this seems to be. I did some reading and mulberries are apparently temperamental, some people say they have never ever got it to set? So I figure I'm doing ok! lol
posted by Weeping Angel at 8:24 PM on July 15, 2014

I made mulberry jam last year and it set well - I used equal parts fruit to sugar (about 1150g each) plus the juice of one lemon, plus some powdered pectin (about 35g I think). I didn't add any other fruit - it is all mulberry, apart from the lemon juice.

My recipe notes tell me that once it was all combined and brought to a rapid boil, I boiled it for 15 minutes and that it jelled on the first try (I know sea level is a factor in boiling time though - I'm in Brisbane, Australia if that helps.)

I have had to reboil plenty of jam from different fruits in my time - I read somewhere that you are aiming to evaporate enough liquid for the fruit and sugar to jell. This helped me understand what was going on a little better and now I look for a significant drop in the volume in the pan before I start testing.

The last jam I made was a microwave jam - this was about a thousand times easier than the usual way and the jam jelled perfectly - maybe you can nuke your mulberry batch and rescue it that way? Good luck, I hope it works for you. Mulberry jam is delicious.
posted by k_tron at 8:30 PM on July 15, 2014

Response by poster: thanks everyone, very helpful!

I am going to boil up this batch now, found my candy thermometer, in the last place I looked...but it turns out I also have a melon baller? who knew? lol

I'm gonna add a cup more sugar I think and a bit more lemon juice....and take it to 220....boil it for at least what? 3-5 mins? there....and see where that takes me!

I'll post up what happens :-)
posted by Weeping Angel at 8:41 PM on July 15, 2014

Response by poster: ok, so I stuck it on to boil....couldn't get it to 220.
One of the article I read said that you can only get it as hot as how much sugar you have in I ended up adding a cup and a half more sugar to get it to 220.

It was starting to set as I was putting it in the jars, so that just might be the ticket!
Thanks EmppressCalluygos for that tip!

and thanks everyone for the suggestions....I will look up microwave jam too! :-)
posted by Weeping Angel at 9:30 PM on July 15, 2014

Do they sell jam/jelly sugar near you? It's got pectin in it and I found it helped last year when I did blackberry jam. The other bit of advice I'll see is to include not just lemon juice but some lemon peel (just the yellow) as well.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:51 PM on July 15, 2014

The rule of thumb for sugar that I've always heard when making jam is that you use equal parts sugar and fruit. So if you have 4 cups of mulberries, you SHOULDN'T need more than 4 cups of sugar.

Another thing - try testing your thermometer. I was having a similar problem once, where I was boiling a batch of jam forever and it wasn't going any higher than 216 on the thermometer. Then someone suggested I test my thermometer by just bringing a pot of water to a full boil and then seeing what temperature the thermometer said it was. The boiling point of water is always 212 degrees - but my thermometer said a boiling pot of water was only 208 degrees. So my THERMOMETER was off. Didn't know how to fix it, but the easy workaround is to just subtract 4 degrees from everything when I use that thermometer because it's 4 degrees off (so I watch for 216 degrees when I use that particular thermometer).

Try testing the thermometer itself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:20 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: thanks! I was just having that discussion with my mum this aft! I think the thermometer might be a little off...I finally get it to 220 and it starts to set the moment it's off the stove! I'll try the test you suggest....and keep an eye out for a better quality one. :-)

Oh and I did start with equal parts sugar/juice but it wouldn't set....but it may have been the temp thing then....
posted by Weeping Angel at 3:02 PM on July 22, 2014

Response by poster: and I DID see sugar w/ pectin just this week in the grocery store, I had never seen it before, premixed....we worked it out, about the same price as buying the pectin and sugar, so yeah, that would be a nice quick way to do it.
posted by Weeping Angel at 3:04 PM on July 22, 2014

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