On Saturday, we used up the last of our orchard-picked apples by making loads of my Chunky Caramel Apple Jam. It tastes like apple pie, with a kick! And serves just as well on a cheeseboard as it does on toast or loaded in a danish or dolloped in a thumbprint cookie!
When I first started making Caramel Apple Jam, I relied on a magazine recipe which called for reducing the apples down to a sauce before adding them to a pot of caramelized sugar. While I love the process of making a caramel BEFORE adding the fruit, there’s no reason to reduce and sieve lovely, tart local orchard apples for jam when you can keep their texture in tact. So, I developed my own chunky recipe, making way for [optional] spice and booze. In fact, the true name of this jam should be Chunky, Spicy, and Tipsy Caramel Apple Jam. There’s pectin enough in the apples & lemon not to have to rely upon commercial add-ins.
The apples I use for my jam are a mix of medium-sized red Spartans [1/2 of the batch] and Honey Crisps and Honey Golds [each 1/4 of the batch]. Along with tart red Cortlands, these are the apples we almost always bring home from our orchard visits. So, I don’t have a wealth of experience testing this recipe with other varieties. When substituting, I would search for a mix of tart, crisp greenish apples, and tart, crisp red apples. Worst case scenario, your jam will be softer and less chunky. It will still taste fab, undoubtedly.
Chunky Caramel Apple Jam
- 3 c granulated sugar
- 3/4 c water
- 4 lbs tart apples [about 10 medium, peeled, cored, chopped into uneven pieces of about 1/4 and 1/2 inch, and mixed with lemon juice, below – I most recently used a mix of red Spartans and green HoneyCrisps & Honeygolds]
- 2 tbsp fresh or bottled lemon juice [combined with the chopped apples, above]
- 1 c brown sugar [packed]
- 1 tsp cinnamon [optional]
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg [optional]
- 1/4 tsp cloves [optional]
- 3 tbsp rye, bourbon, whiskey, or brandy [optional]
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Notes on Temperature: I most often use a traditional jam pan which heats easily and requires lower cooking temperatures. [Heating instructions for a heavy bottomed 6-to-8-quart pot are italicized and in brackets.]
- Before you start: If you want to preserve these jars for more than a few weeks in the fridge, have warm sterilized canning jars warming on the lowest setting in your oven. And prepare a hot water canning bath. Also, throw a small plate into the freezer to help test jam for doneness.
- Before you prepare the caramel: Make sure the apples are peeled, cored, chopped into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces, and blended with lemon juice before starting to cook. Also, measure your water, brown sugar, optional spices, optional booze, and vanilla, so they're ready to go.
Making the Caramel
- Pour the white sugar into a jam pan [or 6-to-8-quart heavy-bottomed pot] spreading the sugar evenly across the pan. Heat the sugar over medium-low [medium] heat, shaking the pot from time to time, WITHOUT STIRRING, until the sugar begins to melt. You will know the sugar has begun to melt when you see wisps of sugar beginning to clump together and become golden.
- Once the sugar begins to melt, reduce the heat to low [medium-low] and STIR intermittently with a wooden or heat-proof rubberized spoon, until all of the sugar is melted and golden.
- Remove the pot from the heat and carefully add the 3/4 cup of water in a slow pour, aiming in and around the centre of the pot. This sugar in the pot is going to harden up quickly and "seize" into a sheet of candy. Don't freak out!
- Return the pot to the low [medium-low] heat, stirring until the caramel is once again dissolved. It is best to nudge the hardened sugar inwards and away from the edges of your pot gently with your spoon so that you don't get a lot of hardened sugar on the walls of your pot.
Cooking and Processing the Jam
- When the caramel has fully dissolved once again, remove the pot from the heat and add the brown sugar, apples, and optional spices to the pot of caramel. It may spatter and harden again, but less distinctively than when you added the water in the step above.
- Return the pot to medium [medium-high] heat and stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to a vigorous-but-gentle boil.
- Boil, uncovered, stirring frequently, for 25-30 minutes,** or until the jam darkens and thickens considerably and a good half of the apples have softened into pulp. If you spoon a bit of the jam onto a frozen plate, it should firm up within a minute or two, remaining only slightly runny at the borders.
- Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the optional booze and vanilla.
- Ladle the hot jam into your hot, sterilized, canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe the jar rims clean. Add the lids and screw bands so that the lids are securely in place but the bands aren't over-tightened.
- Process these filled jars in a covered boiling water bath for 10 minutes, only starting your timer when that water bath has returned to a rolling boil.
- Remove the jars from the canner and cool them completely on wire racks before labelling.