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This is the simplest jam you could make. It only has three ingredients: Cranberries, Honey, and Water. Cranberries are full of natural pectin, a gelling agent that thickens the jam (so there is no need to add any). Cranberries are rich in antioxidants and help to prevent infections; they may not be as powerful as antibiotics, but consuming them regularly as a preventative measure will help to reduce dependency on antibiotics. Plus they’re just plain tasty.
Overview: Cranberries are heated in water until they burst. The liquid reduces and honey is added. Further reduction thickens the sauce into a jam which can be stored in a glass jar. Makes about 1.5 cups. Cranberries can be bought in bulk and stored in your freezer; late Fall/early winter is the best time to buy them. Please be very careful to avoid spilling Cranberry sauce/jam on yourself: even at these low cooking temperatures, a hot, sweet liquid can still give a nasty burn.
- 12 oz. Whole Cranberries
- 3/4 cup filtered water
- 3/4 cup honey
- Small pan with lid (avoid nonstick) or small (1.5QT) crockpot
- 1/4 cup measure
- Stirring spoon
- Fine mesh sieve
- Quart measuring jar or small glass bowl
- Glass jar
- Cereal bowl (if using crock)
- Meat or Candy Thermometer (optional)
- Oven glove (if using crock)
- Rinse cranberries in a colander. Add them to your pan or crock. Add the water. If using a crock, set the temperature to LOW and place the cereal bowl in the crock so that it covers the opening fully and presses the berries down into the water. If using a pan, use medium heat and keep lid on until the cranberries burst. The crock pot takes 1-2 hours to get the berries bursting; the pan takes about 10-15 minutes. Why use a crock at all? If you’re very busy or all your pans are taken, it’s nice to have jam simmering in the background and out of the way…
- If using a pan, remove lid and give the burst cranberries several good stirs to release some steam. Leave the lid off and turn the heat down a little, so that the sauce can simmer without boiling and reduce. If you are using a crock, carefully remove the bowl using an oven glove and leave the crock open; give a few good stirs and let the mixture reduce. The crock takes 2-4 hours to reduce the sauce to a thicker consistency; the pan takes about 30 minutes. The more often you stir, the faster the sauce will reduce. Reduction time depends on temperature and stirring. I like to make jam while I’m doing other things in the kitchen, so I prefer lower temps and longer times..it’s “safer”!
- Once the cranberries have burst, you have a choice: strain out the skins now or later. If you strain them out now, you won’t lose any honey on them; if you strain them out at the end, the skins will have contributed whatever nutrients they possess. It is up to you when you’d like to do it. To strain, place a fine mesh sieve over a quart measuring jug or small glass bowl (deeper is better): empty contents of crock or pan over the sieve and use your stirring spoon to push the contents through the sieve, leaving the skins behind. Scrape the underneath of the sieve to speed up the process. You can put the contents of the measuring jug back into the crock/pot is you choose to strain before adding the honey or you can put the contents of the measuring jug into the glass jar if you choose to strain at the end.
- Once the sauce has reduced to a noticeably thicker consistency, add the honey. It is really important that the temperature of the sauce does not exceed 200F or your honey may burn. (I tried to make grape jelly on HIGH once and it turned out tasting like raisins…burnt raisins…) This is where the crock comes in really handy because it has a steady, low temperature: just use the LOW setting and stir every so often until the sauce thickens to a jam consistency; you guessed it, another 2-4 hours. The pan requires a low temperature that produces wisps of evaporation and no real bubbling. You can use your meat or candy thermometer to make sure the sauce stays at or below 200F, but I just use my nose . Using a pan to reduce the honey-sweetened sauce takes 15-30 minutes depending on the temperature and stirring.
- Once your sauce has developed a jam consistency, carefully spoon it into old jam jars or a glass jar (if you haven’t strained it yet, now is the time to do it: see Step 3). Store in the refrigerator. I think they could last a few months in the ‘fridge, but we go through it too quickly to put that to the test! Cranberry jam is great for peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches (my kids love it), toast, crepes and sweetening/flavoring homemade yogurt. It will even do as cranberry sauce for roast turkey in a pinch (although it is more intense and sweet than the jellied variety).