Thursday, August 11, 2011

Just Jammin

It's year three of jam making at my house, and it's still just as much fun as it was the first time, though quite a bit less messy. Growing up, homemade jam was a treasure that arrived from my grandma ever so often. I always thought it was magical and must take days to make. I also believed in Santa, so what does that say?

Jam making is really easy. If you own a large pot and a dishwasher, you can make jam. Don't go out and buy all that fancy equipment, you don’t need it unless you plan on starting a canning business. The only special piece of equipment I recommend is a canning funnel, simply because it makes adding jam to jars much easier. Other than that you need some water, some tongs, a spoon, and preferably a partner who can help you set up an assembly line.

The key point to jam making is cleanliness. You boil your lids and utensils to prevent contamination, so after they are boiled, try not to touch anything except the clean jars.

Mason jars, mason jar screw bands, mason jar lids (lids are not reusable)
Big spoon
Small spoon (teaspoon)
Canning funnel
Big pot
Slightly smaller pot
Kitchen towel
Wet paper towel

Blueberry-Strawberry Jam (adapted from a pectin insert)
Yields ~8 cups jam (do not double because pectin will not set, always make in smaller batches)

4 cups crushed fruit- This is about 4 pints of fruit, I usually split it down the middle between the two fruits, sometimes a bit heavier on strawberry
7 cups sugar
½ lemon, juiced
1 package liquid pectin

Wash jars in dishwasher. The best seal is hot jars with hot lids, so plan accordingly. In the smaller pot, fill ¾ full with water and add bands, tongs, ladle, small spoon, funnel, and lids. Bring water to just under a boil.

Cut up strawberries and lightly crush to achieve 2 cups crushed fruit. Crush blueberries to fill remaining two cups. Add to high-sided pot along with sugar and lemon juice. Heat pot over medium-high heat, stirring often with spoon until it comes to a rolling boil (it will expand, which is why you need the high sides). Add liquid pectin and return to a boil. Boil for 1 minute while stirring constantly and then turn off heat. Using little spoon skim off any foam off top.

Ladle hot jam into clean jars using funnel, filling to within 1/8 inch of top. Using tongs, carefully cover with flat lids, wipe any jam off sides with wet paper towel, and then place screw band over lid. Using the kitchen towel to protect your hands, screw bands on tightly. Invert jars for 5-10 minutes. After, turn jars upright to check seal. If lid springs back, the jar is not sealed yet and should be inverted for 10 more minutes. If it still springs back, the seal is bad and you must refrigerate the jam. Jam can be stored in a cool dark place for 1-1.5 years, and can be refrigerated open for 1 month.