It’s very hard to make generalizations. An article might say, “The French love their cheese,” and, of course, there will be someone out there who will say, “I have a French friend and they don’t like cheese.” Or “Americans love cinnamon,” which is partially true, although I’m sure there is at least one or two of you out there that can’t abide it.
Generally speaking (at least according to the lines at my cheese shop), the French do love cheese. And judging from how liberally cinnamon is used in American recipes, we do like our cinnamon.
Another generalization is that the French don’t really celebrate Halloween. Certainly not to the extent that we do in the United States. I posted something about that elsewhere, and it was pointed out that there are places where Halloween items do make an appearance in France (some French bakers and pastry chefs like to play around and make ghoul-themed treats for the American holiday), but generally speaking, Halloween is a holiday that isn’t widely celebrated, or given the attention, that it gets in the United States.
I’ll stop modifying everything with “generally speaking” from here on out…right after I say that French aren’t generally fond of sweets and desserts with lots of spices, except for Pain d’épices, and Speculoos cookies. (And those cookies hail from our neighbors in Belgium.)
Romain, who is so French that if you look up “French” in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of him next to the definition, is unusually open to new foods and flavors. But I knew he wouldn’t love this pumpkin jam if I added spoonfuls of spices to it. When I was making it, I unscrewed the lid off my cinnamon jar and I took a whiff, then decided I didn’t want to add it either. So you can take me off the list of clichés about Americans who add cinnamon to everything.
Don’t get me wrong, I love cinnamon. (And reserve the right to add it to anything in the future.) But my instincts to go with using a vanilla bean turned out to be spot-on.
Along with a dose of lemon and orange juice for balance, the slightly floral flavor of the bean took the accent off the vegetal flavor from the pumpkin, and turned it back into a fruit, which technically pumpkin is.
The pumpkin jam turned out to be a hit. It was especially good spread on levain (sourdough) bread, but I could imagine it making a nice filling for a jam tart around the holidays, or even alongside a cheese platter. Generally speaking, the French don’t serve jam with cheese, but for this, you could make an exception.
The two questions I get frequently when sharing jam recipes are, 1) Can I reduce the sugar? and, 2) Can I can this? Because I get asked these questions often, I thought I’d answer them here.
Sugar isn’t just a sweetener but is a preservative. That’s why jams last so long. The standard proportion of sugar in a jam is 1 part sugar to 1 part fruit. So two cups (500ml) of fruit puree would call for 2 cups (400g) of sugar, although some go by weight and use equal amounts of the two.
I don’t like things excessively sweet, especially when using fruit, so I try to moderate the sugar in recipes when developing them. However when making jams and jellies, the sugar isn’t just for preservation but aids in jelling as well. A certain amount of sugar is necessary to ensure that it will set.
Although I don’t use it much, some jam makers like to add a natural jelling agent, like pectin. It comes in powdered or in liquid form, or you can make your own pectin. You can find more information about using it here or follow the instructions on the package. Note that using pectin doesn’t automatically mean that you can reduce the sugar in a recipe. It’s best to use a recipe that is specifically formulated for pectin and/or low-sugar cooking.
Another question I get about making jams and jellies is about preserving them or canning. I’ve been making jam for over thirty years and to be honest, I don’t preserve them for long conservation. I just stick them in the refrigerator and eat them within a few months, and have never had a problem. I do sometimes use the inversion method which is popular in Europe, where you fill a jar, screw on the lid, and turn it upside down, which creates a seal, although that method has recently come under scrutiny.
If you wish to process a jam or preserve for long conservation, there are complete guidelines to canning almost every type of jam, jelly and chutney at this website.
Related Recipes and Links
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (Simply Recipes)
Christine Ferber’s Pumpkin Jam (Local Kitchen)
How to Make No-Cook Freezer Jam (Serious Eats)
How to Make Jam in the Microwave (Simply Recipes)
Making Your Own Apple Pectin (Forager’s Harvest)
The Best Pumpkins for Baking and Cooking (The Kitchn)