Monday, June 18, 2012

An Early Jam Session

Don't worry, I'm not adding folk singer to my list of aspirations.  I'm talking about that fruity goodness that comes in a jar.  A quick trip to the store ended in a unexpected bounty of perfectly ripe and delicious organic blueberries.  I bought 10 pints and while I imagine my kids would have gladly eaten them all right away, I saw the perfect opportunity to practice my canning skills.  Or I might be a fruit hoarder, but that is a different conversation.

The driving force behind making my own jam was the overly sweet taste most store jams have.  Even the less sugar brands taste more like sugar than fruit.  Thanks again to the inter-webs, I found the solution in Pomona's Universal Pectin.  Pectin, in case you like to know these sorts of things, is what helps thicken jam.  Traditional pectin uses about one cup of sugar to one cup of fruit.  Holy sugar Batman.  Pomona's uses as little as 3/4 cup of sugar for 4 cups of fruit.  You can even try honey, agave, stevia or juice, but I'm opting for regular sugar as I learn the art of making jam.  For this batch of jam, I used 4 cups of mashed blueberries, 1/4 lemon juice, 3/4 cup of sugar and the 2 tsp of calcium water and 2tsp of pectin from the Pomona's box. 

Beyond the ingredients you need a few pieces of cooking equipment.  You can buy pots just for canning, but so far I've used what I have.  I did buy a jar and lid lifter, because handling scalding hot jars is hard  (as I learned the hard way on my first canning adventure).

I also highly recommend having a pint sized sous chef, although you will may need to factor in additional berries, as it's impossible for smalls to resist fresh berries (at least for mine it is).

There are detailed directions in the Pomona's box but here is the gist of what I did.  Boil the jars in a big pot and keep the pot simmering while you cook.  Do the same thing with jar lids in a smaller pot.

In a cup mix the sugar with the pectin.  In a pan, mix the mashed blueberries, calcium water, and lemon juice.  Heat it to almost boiling.  Mix in the sugar/pectin mix, stir rapidly and boil for 1-2 minutes.  Now this is where I wish I could convey the smell and taste of this perfect combination of sweet and tart.  It is so good.

After the jam is cooked, take it off the burner.  One by one, take a jar from the pot, fill it to 1/4 inch of the top, wipe the rim of the jar so it's perfectly clean, put a lid on it and then gently tighten a screw band.  When all the jars are filled, place them back into the big pan of still simmering water.  Return it to a boil and let it boil for 10 minutes.  Take the jars out and let them cool.  As they are cooling, you will likely hear a popping sound meaning the jars have sealed.

For an hour of time, and $10 in materials, I have 4 beautiful jars of delicious, low sugar, super fruity jam goodness.  I have decent skills in the kitchen, but I'll confess the idea of canning intimated me.  but I will say this was much easier than I imagined.  Now that I've done it, I can't imagine buying jam again.  Give it a try, it's worth the effort and I bet you will be a convert as well.

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