This is one way to make the fruits of summer last.

Jelly and jam made from garden grown fruit affords more prestigious bragging rights than merely growing the fruit. Using unusual or disregarded fruit makes it even more interesting. It is not too much work, but involves a different kind of creativity. So many of us who are proficient in the garden are not so proficient in the kitchen.

Apricot, peach, plum, grape, blackberry and raspberry are the most familiar choices for jelly and jam. Nectarine can substitute for peach. Prune works like plum. Strawberry is rare only because not many gardens produce enough for a batch of jam. Sweet cherry is not as tasty as tart types, but is sometimes made into jam because it is relatively common.

Apple and pear are not often made into jelly because they have such mild flavor. However, they are sometimes mixed with other fruit to blend flavors, and because they can provide pectin. Quince has a richer flavor, and makes a traditional jam known as membrillo. Crabapple likewise makes a classic jelly. Apple can be made into apple butter.

Pectin is what puts the jell in jelly. Many fruits are naturally equipped with it. Apricot, peach and cane berries do not have enough. Plum, prune and grape initially have enough, but it breaks down as the fruit ripens, which is why jelly recipes without added pectin often designate that fruit must be firm or just ripening. Otherwise, pectin must be added to get jelly or jam to jell.

With added pectin, pomegranate, fig and rhubarb (which is actually a vegetable) can be made into jelly and jam. Orange and lemon marmalades do not need to be cooked as much with extra pectin. Sweet oranges (which is what almost all oranges are) lose flavor with cooking. (Sour oranges for marmalade are very rare here.)

Pectin also makes it possible to make jelly and jam from some rather unconventional fruit that may not be useful for much else. Elderberry, hawthorn, thimbleberry, rose hips (some varieties), Hottentot fig (the larger fruited type of freeway iceplant) and even coffeeberry and manzanita are all worth trying. Indian hawthorn and Catalina cherry have enough pectin to jell on their own.

12 thoughts on “Jellin’ Like A Melon

  1. In Texas country kitchens, these also qualify: prickly pear, beauty berry, and agarita. Indian Hawthorn surprised me. I don’t make jellies myself, but I’ve helped a good bit, and it’s great fun.

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    1. Common Indian hawthorn does not make enough fruit here, but ‘Majestic Beauty’, which is thought to be a hybrid with loquat, can sometimes make quite a bit of fruit if distressed a bit. I make jelly with it, but no one wanted to try it because it is too weird. I never bothered to collect enough prickly pear. There were some where I went to school, but they are not very common in most of California. I suppose I should try them. They are quite variable.

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  2. Many of the low pectin fruits can be made into jam without added pectin by using the “cook down” method, instead. This actually requires less sugar, and you avoid jars of gelled sugar water with floating fruit. You get a true jam, which should have fruit uniformly dispersed. The trick is knowing when to stop cooking the fruit, because you can’t go by temperature.

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    1. Those are the jams that I prefer. However, because I do not eat much of it, I use pectin for some of the fruits that lack pectin, so that I do not need to cook them as much. Peach jam with pectin has a nice light orange color and mild flavor.


    1. Those who are familiar with huckleberry are fond of it. Our native huckleberry has a completely different flavor, which is not so great, although quite rich and ‘concentrated’. They are not very productive either, so collection of a sufficient quantity of berries for jelly is quite a bit of work. I do not like putting that much work into something that is not very good. I may eventually grow other huckleberry, as well as red mulberry.

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  3. I like the sound of the cherry jelly. My sweetheart has just made fig preserve and pear preserve. It’s nice how preserves are used as social currency in the south and people exchange them. That doesn’t seem to happen here. Probably we have less fruit. I do not like to say we are less friendly!

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    1. Sweet cherry is what I remember from when I was a kid because it was what grew in the orchards. The jelly was bland but sweet, but no one knew, because there was nothing to compare it to. To us, it really was good, and I would even recommend it to those with a surplus of sweet cherry. I intend to grow tart or sour cherries too. The exchange of fruit or fruit products used to be a normal activity in the Santa Clara Valley when I was a kid. There was so much fruit back then.

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      1. It is strange that they were so rare in the Santa Clara Valley when I was a kid. We remember the other fruits that grew here, primarily apricot and prune. Sweet cherries were the most common fruit in Sunnyvale. What is odd about the rarity of the sour cherries is that they grew there too, although to a lesser degree. Some were pollinators for the sweet cherries. The sweet cherries that we all remember would not have been as productive without them. Yet, no one remembers them.


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