When it comes to the autumn and winter holidays, I can’t seem to help using cranberries in almost everything. I’m not alone, of course – these lovely berries have long been a holiday classic. And really, that’s no surprise – they’re in season at this time in many temperate regions, their gorgeous red color is hard to resist, and they’re remarkably versatile – delicious used in both sweet and savory ways.
I most often use cranberries in pie or in chutneys and relishes served as an accompaniment to a main course. This holiday season I thought it would be fun instead to make a cranberry jam. To round out the cranberry flavor, I’ve included oranges and pears in the jam as well, and some warming spices.
Sweetened with a generous dose of honey, this jam is delicious in a straight-up jam kind of way – on toast with butter, for example. But, perhaps because of its tangy bite and its subtle touch of bitterness, as well as its slightly chunky texture, it’s equally good used more like a chutney or relish, complementing a main dish.
Use fresh cranberries if you can get them, but if not, frozen berries (defrosted before using) will work just as well.
As for pears, any variety is fine, though do make sure that they are ripe and mashable before using them.
Oranges are another key ingredient in this recipe; and this jam relies heavily on the oranges to impart sweetness to the jam. Because of this, oranges deserve extra scrutiny in selection – especially since oranges can vary tremendously in quality and flavor (more than other fruits, it seems to me).
Perhaps it goes without saying, but if you want a sweet, luscious jam, make sure you use sweet, luscious oranges! And, since you will be using some of the orange skin in the form of zest, use organic oranges if at all possible.
Cranberry-Orange-Pear Holiday Jam
Cranberry-Orange-Pear Holiday Jam is a low-honey cooked jam made with Pomona’s Pectin. Pomona’s Pectin contains no sugar or preservatives and jells reliably with low amounts of any sweetener.
Yield: 4 to 5 cups
Before You Begin:
Prepare calcium water. To do this, combine ½ teaspoon calcium powder (in the small packet in your box of Pomona’s pectin) with ½ cup water in a small, clear jar with a lid. Shake well. Extra calcium water should be stored in the refrigerator for future use.
Cranberry-Orange-Pear Holiday Jam Ingredients
12 ounces fresh, whole cranberries
3 medium oranges
3 medium pears
1 Tablespoon orange zest
1¼ teaspoons ground ginger
¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ cup lemon juice
4 teaspoons calcium water
1 cup honey
2½ teaspoons Pomona’s pectin powder
Cranberry-Orange-Pear Holiday Jam Directions
1. Wash and rinse jars, lids, and screw bands. Set screw bands aside until ready to use. Place jars in boiling water bath canner with a rack, fill at least 2/3 of the way full with water, and bring to a boil. Boil jars for 10 minutes to sterilize (add 1 additional minute of sterilizing time for every 1000 feet above sea level), then turn down heat and let jars stand in hot water until ready to use. Place lids in water in a small pan, bring to a low simmer, and hold there until ready to use.
2. Rinse the cranberries in a colander. Transfer the cranberries to a food processor and pulse them until they turn into a very fine mash, or pulp – not quite fully pureed, but almost. Then, transfer the cranberry pulp to a large sauce pan and set it aside.
3. Rinse the oranges well. Using a zester or a very fine grater, grate the outside skin of one or more of the oranges to obtain zest. Measure out 1 Tablespoon of orange zest and add it the cranberry pulp.
4. Peel the oranges and discard the remaining skin. Pull all of the orange segments apart, discard the seeds, and remove and discard all of the membranes from each individual orange segment. Then, transfer the orange segments to the food processor. Pulse the oranges very briefly – just long enough to turn them into pulp. Be careful not to liquefy them. Measure out 1 1/3 cups of the orange pulp and add it to the cranberry pulp. (If you are left with extra orange pulp, simply use it for something else).
5. Peel and core the pears. Transfer the pears to a mixing bowl and mash well. Measure out 1 1/3 cups mashed pear and add it to the cranberry-orange mixture. (If you are left with extra mashed pear, simply use it for something else).
6. Add all of the spices, as well as the lemon juice and calcium water, to the mixture. Stir to combine.
7. In a separate bowl, combine the honey and pectin powder. Mix well and set aside.
8. Put the sauce pan on the stove and bring the cranberry-orange-pear mixture up to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the honey-pectin mixture, then stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes, still over the highest heat, to dissolve pectin. Return jam to a boil, then remove from heat.
9. Remove hot jars from canner and fill jars with jam, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Remove trapped air bubbles, wipe rims with a damp cloth, and put on lids and screw bands, tightening bands only to “fingertip tight” (until resistance is met, and then just the tiniest bit more).
10. Place jars in the hot water, on the rack inside the canner. (Make sure jars are upright, not touching each other or the sides of the canner, and are covered with at least 1-2 inches of water). Place the lid on the canner, return the canner to a rolling boil, and boil for 10 minutes. (Add 1 minute additional processing time for every 1000 feet above sea level.)
11. Turn off heat and allow canner and jars to sit for 5 minutes. Then remove jars from canner.
12. Allow jars to cool undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. Then confirm that jars have sealed. Remove screw bands from sealed jars, rinse off outside of jars if necessary, label jars, and store for later use.
Recipe and photos by Allison Carroll Duffy