My first experiments with fruit preserving began in the early seventies. I was a home-based Mom with young children. Cooking and baking were my main creative outlets. I was so proud of my fresh, warm bread and muffins that I wanted to include them in every meal, and flavorful sweet jams and jellies seemed the perfect complement.

I was soon disappointed when even the high-priced preserves from gourmet shops proved too sweet for my taste. I knew from cooking fruit desserts for my family that fruit flavors intensify as juices reduce. Why was this rich flavor missing from the store-bought preserves? I was determined to find out.

First, I tried my hand at fruit jams. To my surprise, finding a simple, direct fruit jam recipe proved as frustrating as shopping for cooked ones. There seemed to be two competing techniques. The first was the old-fashioned approach that called for massive amounts of fruit followed by vague directions and no cooking times. Preserves made from these recipes took a long time to cook punctuated by agonizing moments of indecision - was the jam really thick enough?

Then I found newer a styled fruit preserving, alongside the canning, smoking and brining recipes in textbook-like publications. These modern jams and jellies contained so much sugar because of their use of concentrated commercial pectin that the flavor of the fruit was overwhelmed.

That's when I started working on my own with fruit preserves in earnest. I learned the basic chemistry of the jell. From there I developed procedures for making jams, jellies, marmalades and preserves. My objective was to work in small quantities, to cook fruits as little as possible to retain flavor and to complete the process with only as much sugar as is needed for taste and consistency.

Gourmet Preserves Chez Madelaine remains a work in progress. More than thirty years after my first attempts at fruit preserving, I'm still refining my technique and creating new fruit combinations. Please visit this site often for new seasonal recipe updates, answers to questions from other fruit preservers and dates when I will be teaching fruit preserving in the Chicagoland area. I'll be glad to see you!

Enjoy,
Madelaine

 

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