This is attempt number one. It tastes very good. But it is not the jam I was striving for yet. Will keep at it. Inspired by the cover story on Food magazine by Chef Chris Bautista on jams, and a recent discovery that we may have several bijillions of mangoes on a distant (two hours by foot, no roads) Cebu property that we have never known about to this day, I have been somewhat determined to figure out a decent Mango Jam recipe. First of all, I have never really had a “good” mango jam, in my opinion, so I am making up my own definition of “good.” What I am seeking is a jam that is distinctly mango in taste…the flavor is clearly there. I want to see that it is made up of mango chunks or at least pieces of fruit, yet I want it to be jam-like in consistency and if possible, not overly sweet. I do not want it to be a very slow and long-cooked preserve that is dark and unappetizing looking and spread like (almost peanut buttery is how I would describe grocery jams)… And I want folks who taste it to instantly think, “hmmm, what IS this and why have I never had anything like this before…” A tall order, I agree.
It is my personal opinion that despite the abundance of mangoes in this country, there are very few examples of good mango jam commercially for sale, and it is a result of several factors: 1. Mangoes are actually very expensive so cooking them down into a jam results in a very pricey final product, ergo, folks won’t make it thinking no one will buy it at nosebleed price tags, 2. Mangoes are extremely soft and have a high water content, therefore they break down easily when cooked and turn into a mush rather easily… in the same manner that apple butter or apple sauce no longer resembles fresh apples, 3. Many folks refuse to use peak quality mangoes but rather use the bruised, abused and past their prime fruits, which directly results in a jam that tastes bruised, abused and past its prime, 4. Mangoes don’t naturally have much pectin, so one has to add pectin to get that “jelling” of the jam and pectin isn’t so readily available at your corner sari-sari store 5. Folks no longer make their jams from scratch, period…
So I started my mango jam quest by trying the simplest of recipes gleaned from the Ball Jar instructions for jam, my Certo pectin package instructions for jam and some tips from Chris. I peeled enough ripe mangoes for about 1 kilo of cubed mango. I added 1 kilo of sugar and put this in a Le Creuset enameled pot. I guess I could have waited several hours to extract liquids from the mango cubes but I was in a rush so I didn’t. I turned the heat on and waited for the sugar to melt and the mixture to bubble and boil. I skimmed off the foam and a few minute later, added the pectin mixture and returned the mixture to a boil. I then bottled and boiled the bottles for 10 more minutes and let this all cool. After a few hours, I stuck the cooled jars in the fridge, though these could have been left out.
After a few days, I opened the smallest jar and tasted the jam. It was good. Very mango-ey and still with distinct cubes of mango. However, I found it to be just too sweet. A lot less sugar would have worked but then I am not sure if the consistency would be affected. I also found that my jam was more of a preserve or mango cubes in a sugar syrup, kind of like peaches in sugared syrup. After a few days, the consistency seemed more jam like but I think I definitely have to cook this longer on the next attempt. The color was superb, the flavor good, the sweetness too cloying but I can see this working on a cheesecake or some other dessert. For now, on top of nice toast, with some cream cheese, the jam is still pretty darn good!