Eight years ago I went a little overboard and purchased a myriad of strawberries from our produce market. Standing in my tiny kitchen, the abundance of beautiful red berries over shadowed the outdated harvest gold appliances and sent my mind in a quandary. With the ridiculous amount of berries standing before me, my husband and I would be eating shortcake for weeks! What else was I going to do with those tiny, sweet, red jewels? As I rifled through cookbook after cookbook I came upon a recipe for Ponchatoula Strawberry Jam (Ponchatoula is the strawberry capital of Louisiana-errrr, or the world if you are from there-you can thank me for the history lesson later). I had never made jam and was very hesitant to do so.
Wasn't special equipment needed? Did I have to go out and buy a ginormous canning pot? A jar lifter? As a lowly paid pastry cook and new wife of a grad student (which meant we still lived like college students), I could not justify buying all of this equipment for a few jars of strawberry jam. Guess what...I didn't have to buy all of that stuff after all.
So...What Do You Need?
All you need are canning jars, lids & screw bands (duh), stockpots or sauce pots, tongs and a wide mouth funnel. I use a small pot to heat my lids and screw bands, a large stockpot to sterilize and process my jars, a stainless steel trivet that fits perfectly into the stockpot to elevate the jars off of the surface of the pot (you can also use extra screw bands), a large sauce pot to make the jam in, wide mouth funnel for easy filling, a potato masher to break down the fruit, spoons and ladles for stirring, skimming and filling.
Keep It Sterile
The first thing I do is clean the jars, lids and screw bands in hot soapy water. Then I place the lids in a small sauce pot and simmer to keep them warm. I place the jars in a large stock pot, fill each of them with hot water, then fill the pot with hot water and bring them to a boil. I gently boil them for 10 minutes and keep them warm until ready to fill.
After the fruit, sugar, etc., has macerated for at least two hours, I simply use the recipe as a guideline. Bring it to a boil and then gently boil it for the time instructed (more or less). Remember to skim off the foam-no one wants that!
Perform The Test
Place a plate in the freezer right when you begin this whole process to get it nice a cold. Once you think your jam has reached the point of jelling, spoon a teaspoon onto the cold plate and set it back into the freezer. Let it set for a few minutes and then push your finger through the jam-if it wrinkles-the jam is ready.
Are you filling me? Do you process?
Using tongs, lift your jars out of the stock pot, drain and place on a clean kitchen towel. Fill jars, leaving 1/4 inch spacing from the top. Using a hot clean towel, wipe any jam off of the rims of the jars. Place lid and screw band (not too tight) onto the jar. Place in hot water, making sure the jars are covered at least by an inch. Process jars, covered, for ten minutes, let jars sit for 5 minutes before you lift them out. Using tongs and trying not to tilt the jars, lift them and place onto to a kitchen towel to cool to room temperature.
Phew! I hope I remembered everything because I am way into Rocky IV as I type this! That's right, the training scene, jamming to Hearts On Fire...you get the picture. I do want to share this link for those of you new to canning or just need to be refreshed in the process.
If you have plums on hand, check out my recipe for Spiced Plum & Vanilla Preserves.
yield: 4-1/2 pint jars
This jam has a pure, clean and fresh peach flavor. Simplicity at its best!
2 pounds peaches
2 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- Peel peaches. Score a small X at the base of the peaches. Submerge peaches in gently boiling water and blanch for 30 seconds or until the skin has slightly peeled back from the X. Place peaches in ice water. Using a paring knife, peel the skin off, cut into 2 inch pieces over a bowl allowing juices to fall into bowl. Discard seeds & peel.
- Combine peaches, sugar and lemon juice together and let it sit out at room temperature for 2 hours. Alternatively, you may store the mixture in the refrigerator overnight.
- Wash and sterilize jars. Boil the flat parts of the lids in a small pot and keep at a low simmer (I toss in the bands too).
- Mash the peaches with a potato masher and place in a large heavy bottomed saucepan.
- Place on a burner over medium high heat and bring to a rolling boil. Stir and boil for 1 min.
- Lower heat and gently boil for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally at first then more frequently toward the end. Perform the gel test to see if jam is ready to be processed.
- Ladle jam into hot jars, then place the lids on jars, and add screw rings.
- Immerse jars in hot water bath, and boil rapidly for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let jars sit in pot for 5 minutes. Remove from bath and place on a towel on the counter to cool.