So lately I’ve been going through a “Jamming” phase. I’ve always been fascinated with how a piece of produce could be at the peak of its season and you simply put it in a jar and preserve its quality like pulling tomatoes in the cold of winter. Of course it sounds effortless when I say simple, mastering the art of canning, preserving, and pickling is not for the faint hearted but anyone can do it with just a little bit of patience. You MUST begin by sterilizing your jars. I used a glass pint jar (16oz) with a screw on band. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the jars/lids and sterilize them for up to 15 minutes. Be careful to take them out of the water with a pair of tongs, let dry. What next?
First, before anything (I know you're eager) stick a small ceramic plate in the freezer! Don’t ask questions, just do it.
Strawberry, Blueberry, Blackberry, Apricot, almost any fruit can be made into a jam or preserve. To begin, pick a fruit that’s at its peak of season like strawberries and/or rhubarb. You know and love strawberries, let alone the strawberry jam when mom sandwich’s it between a layer of peanut butter and bread. The rhubarb is an added bonus, the flavor works well with sweet strawberries and not to mention the likeness in color. Rhubarb (FYI) is a fat looking piece of rose-colored celery…that’s the best way I could describe it. It’s an earthy plant that originally was used by the Chinese for medicinal purposes, but the English actually the first to began using it for eating. Its sour taste is almost always sweetened and used for jams, pies, cobblers and so on.
Back to the jam, after you have decided on your fruit’s, clean and cut them into appropriate sizes. In the case of strawberries and rhubarb I extracted their juices from their flesh by macerating them (sounds morbid). To do so I tossed them with sugar and the juice of one lemon, covered with a damp cloth and set in the fridge for an hour or so until its sitting in a pool of its own nectar. I then poured the fruit and juice into a large heavy bottomed pan set over medium high heat and let the mixture begin to soften and bubble. As the minutes pass your fruit will soften in which this time you will take the back of a large spoon or potato masher and mush the fruit until slightly chunky, continue to simmer. Now its time to pull that plate you stuck in the freezer and drip a little bit of the hot jam onto the plate and see if it jells up, if so your almost done! (if not simmer for a little longer) If white scum resides on the top of your jam ever so carefully skim as much as you can off with a spoon. Pour into your WARM sterilized jar /jar’s and be sure to leave a ¼ inch headspace.
Now we process the jar (you’re almost there!), to process means to seal your jar so you may preserve it on your shelf. In a large pot of boiling water, submerge your tightly closed jar into the pot. Make sure the water is at least two inches higher then the lid. Process for 10-15 minutes. When you carefully pull the hot jar out of the water you should notice the top of the lid is concave or “puffed up”. There! You did it, you have successfully canned jam! Let your jar stand at room temperature to cool down and store in a shady cabinet. Then spread it on some toast and indulge in your very own jam. The flavor combinations are endless! I’ll be back with more, I think I see pickling in my our future.
As a side note make sure that once you’ve opened your jar that you store it in the fridge to keep fresh. Check out the following site for more information on processing times. It differs with various produce and fruits.
Keep on Cooking!!