I like to make jam!
People always ask, how can you stand canning when it is hot!
Well, I think of it as bottling sunshine and the summer.
A BIT ABOUT MY JAMMING
My grandmother used to make raspberry jam. She used shallow, round bottomed, jam jars, that were actually very pretty. They were sealed with two layers of paraffin. She also made raspberry jelly.
I discovered jam making one summer when I was not very old. I went down into the woods, and picked some thimbleberries. Thimbleberries, Rubus parviflorus, is a relative of raspberries. They grow wild in the woods in the Pacific Northwest, where I grew up. I picked some, went back to the house, and for some reason added some sugar, and smashing and stirring, heated them up. What resulted was jam!
I can remember staring down at this small pan going, ” I made jam! I made jam!” I found it very exciting! I have never looked back.
A normal summer of jam making for me starts at the beginning of July with strawberries, and then at the end of July raspberries, blueberries are next, and then blackberries and apples. But this year was different.
JAM MAKING 2021
About two weeks ago I walked into the market and there was a sale on raspberries and blackberries. Mother Lode! I bought flats and flats of them, went home and smashed them up, measured them into bags, and stuffed them into my freezer.
The next step was to gather jars and lids. Last year was a hard year to find either. Last year I had plenty of large lids, but almost no large mouthed jars. And I had plenty of regular mouth jars, but no lids. Getting what I needed last year was tough… but last year was a pickle year, and i don’t do as many pickles types as I do jam.
One of the problems many of us have is jars go one way. They go out the door as gifts to family and friends; no one remembers to return them! This year I got jars in March, but knew I did not have enough. Thankfully this year the supply chain is working as far as jars and lids are concerned! I was able to get plenty of both jars and lids.
In the search for jars I came upon one that I have not seen before. It holds a full two cups, like the regular wide mouth pint jars. It is squat and square. I like it’s shape. I think it will be nice for gifts.
I did two of this size per run, and the rest were put in to regular half pint small mouth jars. So, I ended up with plenty of large ones for gift giving and plenty for home use. The biggest issue with this size, for me, is the wide square shape did not fit into my canning rack well. I managed, but it was a bit of a struggle to get them seated correctly, and then to remove them from the kettle.
NOTHING IS CERTAIN WITH JAM
I used to do old fashion regular jam, made with equal amounts of fruit and sugar, and never had a problem… But, as someone said- “Nothing is certain with jam”. How true. I started with the blackberries. It was hot, it was humid, and my jam did not jam! I waited forty eight hours after canning them, and no jell.
I tried reworking one batch, by returning it to a full rolling boil, and boiling it down… nope, still did not jam. And, it tasted very over-cooked. What I did not rework I kept as blackberry syrup.
I went on line, and found a blog: Food in Jars, that had an article- “How to Save Runny Jam”. This was interesting, as it entailed reworking the jam with a small amount of pectin. While I knew about Certo, the author swore by pectin from Ball and another company. I did not even know Ball made pectin!
So, off I went to look for pectin. I found a bit of it at one hardware store, and more at another. There are several kinds by Ball. I bought a jar of the Ball Company No or Low Sugar pectin, and one of the Regular or Low sugar pectin and went home. These are a powder, so one can measure out what one needs.
I reworked one of the batches of blackberries with the regular pectin, and it did jell. But, the taste was over-cooked. So, out went that jam!
Working with the raspberries, I tried a batch of jam with only two thirds of the sugar of the old fashioned jam recipe of equal parts fruit and sugar, and the regular pectin. The result was not noticeably less sweet than regular jam, and the texture was good.
Remember strawberry preserves? The berries are preserved with a large amount of sugar- sugar is a preservative.
I then did a very small batch with the No or Low Sugar, to try it. In my opinion it was gross- the consistency was like mushy jello. I don’t know if that is the norm, but I did not like it.
So, I then proceeded to do three runs of jam using the regular or low sugar pectin. One thing about using pectin, one is assured of a jell, and the runs are quick. One can do back to back runs in no time.
The thing that takes the longest is removing seeds from some of the berries. Using a Squeezo I remove seeds from about half the berries when making raspberry or blackberry jam.
I bought my Squeezo almost 40 years ago. I use it for a lot of things- tomato sauce, apple sauce, etc. The biggest issue with it is if the screen gets clogged, one has to take the screen off of the worm and clean the holes. I use a toothbrush. I know there are other kitchen equipment items similar to this.
After I did one run I noticed a rusted ding on the inside of the canning kettle, and the metal was definitely thinned there. My kettle is a Granite Ware kettle that is at least 40 years old. I went to the hardware store to get a new one. Now, mine is a 21 1/2 quart kettle. But, all there were were 33 quart. While I did not love that I needed more water for that, I needed a new kettle. I had visions of that thinned area letting go, and spewing boiling water out. So, I took the 33 gallon kettle home.
I am in a rented house right now, and that kettle did not fit on the stove! I may be fine on a large wood burning cook stove, but it definitely did not work on what I have in this kitchen. Back it went. I finally was able to get one online.
FUN WITH JAM
I like to experiment with flavors. Try adding some orange rind to blackberry jam! Or to strawberry jam!
I make a raspberry, blackberry, blue berry jam, as, and here in Maine this is heresy- I don’t like plain blue berry jam! I use equal parts of raw fruit, but squeezo half of the raspberries and blackberries to remove seeds. So in actual fact there are more blue berries by actual measurement for the jam.
I also do a three fruit deep dish pie, but that is another story!
One last thing… there is one by product of jam and jelly making- the foam from skimming. It always bothered me to just throw it out. You can, of course just spread it on toast, like jam, because all it is is jam with air bubbles in it. But, it can be used in other ways.
One year I came up with this. While the jelly was in the canner, and the foam was still soft, I would whip cream, and fold the foam into it, and then refrigerate it. When cool, the it becomes a fruit mouse. We call it Fluff. I recently saw an article where someone had added it to cream cheese to make a fruity spread. So, that could be fun for bagels!
CANNING WITH CARE
Canning is not just about shoving food into a jar and slapping a lid on it. Botulism is no joke. I know one person who had a surplus of tomatoes who did just that. Three days later all the jars exploded. GET THE BOOK!
For those of you who don’t know about canning- please get a copy of “Putting Food By” by Greene, Herzberg, and Vaughan. There is a new edition out, it is the fifth. Most of us who can call it the bible. It is packed with recipes. But, its real value is the information contained in it. It is a wealth of why things are done, and need to be done, the way they are in canning, as well as the how to do them.