From PDX with Love

Jam: What It Is and What It Isn’t

Please, help me welcome author Shaunda Kennedy Wenger as my guest blogger! Today she is sharing with us all her jam making adventures in “Jam: what is and what is not”. So grab a cup of tea/cup and enjoy!

Jam. What It Is and What It Isn’t

By Shaunda Kennedy Wenger

Jam has got to be one of the most highly under-rated and overlooked, yet truly delectable foods on the planet. Or maybe I should reel in my grandiose opinion and simply talk about the under-appreciations and misconceptions that I’d like to debate on its behalf from my kitchen. For as much as I like jam, I don’t really think all that much about it throughout the year until the time comes for jamming season. Then, you can bet that without a doubt, I am singing its praises…. but not for the reasons you may think.

Sure, I’ll pull a jar of homemade jam out of the fridge and add a dollop to my toast or best store-bought, yeasty-baked biscuit, as quick as anyone who’s feeling a little hungry. If I’m feeling extravagant, I may even plop a heated jam puddle on top of my favorite bowl of ice cream (#gourmet, I know).


From PDX with Love // What is Jam

But the real reason jam and I have a hard-wired connection can be most definitively traced to those “How to Make Jam” Instructions that are tucked inside those Sure-Jell packages….

I hate those trim, yellow packages. Their instructions drive me crazy. Primarily because I am not the sort of person who really likes to follow instructions. Or more specifically, I am not the sort of person who likes to follow instructions that tell me I NEED TO FOLLOW the instructions EXACTLY as written or my jam will fail. #gasp!

#yah, right. By whose standards? Perhaps that is the important question.

Because we’re talking jam, here. Just jam. Fruit. Sugar. Pectin. And these things were born to tango.

Instructions like Sure-Hell’s bring out the worst in me; and you can be sure that every year I’ll find a reason as to why I SHOULDN’T do EXACTLY what the instructions say.


From PDX with Love // What is Jam

First and foremost, although I love sugar, I don’t see a need to go overboard on it. More often than not, those darned recipes call for nearly five pounds of the white tasty stuff. (Good grief! That’s the whole bag!) And secondly, how do I know what kind of berries SURE*JELL used to test their recipe with? Where their berries like mine? Fresh from the vine, extra sweet, and not too needy in the sugar-boost department? Or were they more like those from my farthest neighborhood grocery store? Kind of bland and on the dry side?

These are important considerations.

It’s these sorts of considerations that get me into trouble (or not, depending on how you look at it). Because once I start considering, I start hedging. And once I start hedging, all the “shoulda and coulda and Must-Dos” get thrown out the window….


Which brings us back to making jam….


From PDX with Love // What is Jam

The great thing about jam–or MY JAM–is that it knows me. It knows that I’m not going to just be spreading it on toast every day. It knows that some days I might want to go gourmet. It knows that some days I might be inching toward boosting a smoothie with a pre-made blend of sugary-fruit confection. It knows that other days I might be wanting to perk up some pancakes with berry syrup, or infuse some cupcakes, or inspire a cheesecake…. The list goes on and on. And when those hunkerings arise, there is nothing better than my homemade jam–and all my variations of it–which I’ve made by NOT FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS.

Because in the end, as it turns out, Not Following Directions gets you some jars that are thickened just right, and other jars that are screaming for a higher calling (like syrup, for instance.) And I for one, am more than happy to oblige; especially since my haphazard jam is ducking from SURE*HELL’s expectations of what the perfect jar of jam should be.

That’s why I love jam, or MY JAM. For everything that it is, and maybe even more so, for everything those PACKAGES try to tell me that it ISN’T. As far as I’m concerned, it turns out that a jar of jam can be turned into whatever it needs to be.

Shaunda Kennedy Wenger***Shaunda Kennedy Wenger is author of books such as The Ghost in Me, Reality Bites, and The Book Lover’s Cookbook. She blogs at

About Sofia

Wife to a wonderful man and mother to 2 little boys. Loves chocolate, coffee and chips with hot sauce and lime. Pretend chef and aspiring photographer.
1st October 2012

Your Comments:

  1. October 1, 2012 at 7:21 am

    That looks really yummy! Thanks for sharing!

  2. October 1, 2012 at 7:37 am

    I learned to can just a few years ago but I have never gotten the nerve up yet to make jam, jelly or to even use a pressure cooker, lol. Maybe next year. :)


    • October 1, 2012 at 10:11 am

      Jams and Jellies scare me!!

  3. October 1, 2012 at 7:43 am

    I agree.. even mistakes are still homemade gold and can just be repurposed for other yummy uses! Love to make my own and would never go back.

  4. October 1, 2012 at 7:46 am

    I love making homemade jam! The store bought junk tastes horrible, while this stuff tastes amazing. Thank you for sharing :)

  5. October 1, 2012 at 7:47 am

    I remember my mother doing this while I was growing up. I need to try it!

  6. October 1, 2012 at 8:03 am

    hmmm…I don’t do well with instructions either but I’d love to make my own jam

  7. October 1, 2012 at 8:25 am

    I love jam, too! And I love to “multi-purpose” it. I use Pomona’s Universal Pectin instead of Sure Jel because I can use less sugar, one box makes several batches, and I can adjust batch size easily with it. My pantry is well stocked every autumn with all kinds of delicious flavors.

  8. October 1, 2012 at 8:25 am

    I love that idea of mistakes “still being homemade gold.” So true! At least most of the time… there was that “experiment” I made last night for dessert…. It’s still sitting on the counter. :) It’s great to see so many fellow foodies here! happy jamming!

  9. October 1, 2012 at 8:27 am

    I love homemade jam and dont make it enough. Pectin sure makes it easier. wish I had some now

  10. October 1, 2012 at 10:02 am

    I love homemade jam and love to purchase it to help out the owner. I’ve never made it and probably won’t…so I will buy. Yours looks yummy!!

  11. October 1, 2012 at 10:45 am

    My hubby loves my homemade jam~

  12. October 1, 2012 at 10:51 am

    WE make our own preserves and jam too!

  13. October 1, 2012 at 11:57 am

    love making jam!

  14. October 1, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    That looks so yummy! I love homemade jam!

  15. October 1, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    My goal for next year is to make jam

  16. October 1, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    love homemade jam when I was a kid my mother always made some

  17. October 1, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    AHAHAHAHA! So hilariously true! My mother harps on me, often, about following directions. Or, she did, til I caught her spraying the cookie sheet. ;)

  18. October 1, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    My co-worker today commented that she had tried to make jam this past weekend and ended up with syrup. We both laughed in the realization that it was all good, because without a doubt each jar that she made would be beat any store-bought bottle with a price inching toward the $10 mark. :) *Perspective is a beautiful thing.

  19. October 1, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    I love eating jam on toast, but have never tried it on my own. Never knew it had only 3 ingredients! I’ll have to try this.

  20. October 1, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Omg this looks so yummy, I need to learn how to make my own jam :)

  21. October 1, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    I have never, yes never, had home made jam! I sure would love to try to make some!! Thanks for this post, I think I am going to give it a try! Wish me luck!

  22. October 1, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    I wish I could get into doing that. I always get freaked out because I am NOT good at following directions, either. Thanks for letting me know that perfect isn’t always what “they” say it is. :)