I have fuzzy memories of my grandmothers basement. It was dark, dusty and scary for an eight-year old. It was full from front to back with old furniture, boxes of Christmas decorations and musty vintage clothing. One corner also held a make-shift shelving unit, built into the stud of the walls, that was filled from floor to ceiling with dusty mason jars. From what I remember, they were all filled with peaches. I have no idea why. My grandmothers house was in Upstate New York, where there are a dearth of peach trees. If she had jars of jam in her basement, they looked like peaches to my young, frightened of the dark, eyes.
This weeks challenge was to channel my jam-making grandmother, using my moms vintage canning supplies and churn out modern preserves. There are so many varieties of jams, jellies and preserves available in the grocery store and at the farmers market, I didn't want to make a plain, single fruit jam. Why make plain strawberry jam when I can buy fresh, locally made strawberry jam at the farmers market right around the corner from my house?
There are a few reasons why you could make all of your own jam. 1. Using fresh, in season, organic fruits gives the most flavorful product possible. 2. Jam-making and canning is a simple process. 3. Make a batch of homemade jam - you have presents for everyone!
For my canning-fest, I chose two very different flavor combos. First - fresh and bright Strawberry-Lemon preserves. Next - tangy ginger-pear preserves. Yes, I decided to go with preserves for both of my jams. Personally, I like a bit of chunky texture to my spreads and therefore I'm not really a jelly fan. I also didn't want to go with any tricky recipes that required added pectin from apples or the baking aisle. Maybe I'll give jelly a go once we finish these jars of jam!
Results - the strawberry-lemon jam was bright and fresh. The recipe was super simple to follow and the jam came together very quickly. This was exceptional on my morning English muffin and I will have no problem finishing the two jars that I made. The ginger-pear preserves took a bit longer to make because the pears were very juicy. Once complete, this jam made a striking change in a traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
When it comes to jams, jellies and preserves I have two suggestions - Head to the farmers market or "Pick your own" farm and stock up on local, in season produce. And, when making your own jams, try something a little different, you can get strawberry jam anywhere.
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Important! When it comes to canning, you want to be sure to follow canning rules to ensure a safe product. To sterilize your jar and lids - Bring a large pot of water to a boil, it will probably take between 15-30 minutes for your water to boil. Get it ready in advance. Add your jars to the pot and boil them for 10 minutes. Remove with tongs and pour out the water. Let jars cool on the counter top on a kitchen towel. Place lids in a heat-proof container and pour a few ladles of boiling water over them. Try not to touch the inside of the lids with your fingers.
Once the jars are full, return them to the water bath and process for the required amount of time. Remove them from the water bath and set them on a kitchen towel. Let the jars sit at room temperature for 12 hours. You should hear the jar lids pop closed after a few minutes. If the lids haven't sealed in an hour, put those jars in the fridge.
Adapted from Canning for a New Generation
2 pints strawberries, hulled and coarsely chopped
2 lemons, washed
1 cup sugar
Cut the ends off of the lemons. Cut lemons in quarters and remove the seeds. Slice lemons very thinly, about 1/8-inch thick. Gently toss strawberries, lemons and sugar in a large bowl. Cover and put in the fridge overnight.
Prepare 2-3 1/2-pint jars and their lids. Combine fruit with 1/3 cup water in a large saucepan with high sides. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Pour fruit into a colander and collect the liquids in a bowl below.
Return liquids to the pan and bring to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes until the liquids are reduced to a syrup. Return fruit to the pan and bring to a simmer. Stir frequently and cook for about 20-25 minutes. The strawberries should hold their shape, but be shiny and glossy.
Remove jars from the water bath and ladle hot water over the lids. Add preserves to the jars. Wipe the lip of the jars clean with a wet paper towel. Place lids on the jars and screw on collars. The lids should just be finger-tightened. Process in the water bath for 5 minutes with the lid on the water bath. Remove jars from the bath and let sit on a kitchen towel. Do not disturb for 12 hours.
You can store the jam in the pantry. Store opened jars in the fridge and eat within a few weeks.
Adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
6 pears (choose your favorite type), peeled, cored and chopped
Zest of 3 limes
Juice of 3 limes
2 1/3 cups sugar
1 tbsp grated gingerroot
Prepare 3-4 1/2-pint jars in a water bath. Place 3 spoons in the freezer.
In a large, non-reactive, saucepan, combine pears, lime zest, lime juice, sugar and ginger. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir frequently and cook for 15 minutes.
Test the gel - Take one of your frozen spoons and scoop up some of the liquid from the pan. If the liquid drips off in small drops, the gel is not ready. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly and test again. If the liquid falls off the spoon in a sheet, it it ready to can.
Remove jars from the water bath and ladle jar into the jars. Wipe off the lip of the jars with a wet paper towel. Place lids on the jars and screw on the collars. Process jars in the water bath for 10 minutes the the bath lid on. Remove the lid and let boil for 5 more minutes. Remove jars from the bath and place on a kitchen towel. After 1 hour, check to see if the lids have sealed (the tops should not pop when pressed down). If any jars have not sealed, place them in the fridge immediately. Do not disturb the sealed jars for 12 hours.
Sealed jars can be stored in the pantry. Opened jars should be stored in the fridge. Try this with peanut butter for a new take on your classic PB&J!