Monday, July 16, 2012

Jamming and Canning

Saturday was National Can-It-Forward Day.  While I am a canning enthusiast, this isn’t something that I sign up for or, realistically, to which I pay much heed.  For the last two years, however, it seems like I end up canning on Can-It-Forward Day without premeditation. 

My canning weekend started with two pounds of sweet cherries I picked up while grocery shopping on Thursday.  I bought them with a purpose other than just eating them – which is what happened to the last cherries I bought.  Kaela of Local Kitchen had a recipe for Smoky Chipotle Cherries that I just had to try.  When I read the recipe, I knew I had not the slightest chance of finding the Portuguese cherry liqueur in Southern Illinois.  I chose to substitute with 1/4 cup dry red wine and 1/4 cup crème de cacao.  It worked.  Really, really, well.  So well, that I feel the need to get more cherries.  I mean, it only made three jars.  That can’t possibly be enough.

On Friday I pulled a couple of bags of frozen peach peels and pits from the freezer.  Odd things to keep in the freezer you’re thinking?  Possibly.  Last year I made a lot of peach jam and canned some peaches in ginger syrup.  It seemed like such a waste to throw out or even compost those beautiful (and tasty) peach peels.  So instead, I used some of them to infuse some white wine jelly.  The deep red peach pits gave the jelly a gorgeous color.  This year I made the jelly with some dry sparkling white wine.  Before ladling the jelly into the jars, I added an extra two teaspoons of the sparkling wine to each jar in hopes it would give the jelly a bubbly appearance.  It did at first, but after processing the bubbles seem to have disappeared.  I’ll work on that.  I’m planning on entering peach jelly in the state fair this year so I need to get my recipe just right.  But since I have five jars of this batch, the next one need be a bit smaller.

In June I had purchased a couple of bundles of rhubarb just because it was a great price.  Since I didn’t have anything immediately in mind for it, I diced it and put in the freezer.  After finishing the peach jelly on Friday, I decided to pull out the rhubarb for some rhubarb-ginger jam.  This batch of jam wasn’t the beautiful color of that I’d made previously because of the lack of color in the rhubarb.  To help it out, I added a spoonful of dried hibiscus petals.  I’m pretty happy with the end result.  Rhubarb-ginger jam is one of my favorites to add to my yogurt, so I have a feeling these six jars won’t last me nearly as long as they should.

smoky chipotle cherries, peach champagne jelly, rhubarb-ginger jam
Saturday morning Tug and I went to the farmers’ market.  In addition to coming home with a couple of cantaloupes, some small eggplants and a huge bunch of kale, I bought . . .  more fruit.  Peaches.   Although I made a lot of peach jam and jelly last year, most of it is gone and I didn’t get to try all of the ideas I had in mind.  One of my favorite ways to eat peaches is sliced at room temperature, sprinkled with brown sugar and drizzled with a little bit of cream.  Decadent and unhealthy?  Absolutely.  But also absolutely delicious.  Keeping that combination in mind, I made peach jam substituting one cup of brown sugar for one cup of the granulated sugar and adding a touch of maple syrup.  Other than all seven jars experiencing fruit float, I’m really happy with this one as well.

By Sunday, I already had more jam and jelly that one woman reasonably needs but I have never claimed to be reasonable.  I’ve had some apricots (a lot, actually) in the freezer with the intent of making apricot jam and since I was on a roll, it seemed a good time to get them out.  Part of them was made into Martha Stewart’s Apricot Sauternes Jam, using domestic sauternes.  This jam was literally a bit of a pain.  (Am I the only woman to ever burn her foot making jam?!)  Despite the large pot I used, the sugary concoction bubbled madly out of its boundaries.  It was supposed to boil at 220°F for five to six minutes, but I never made it to that temperature.  It was getting late and I was getting tired of being spattered with screaming hot sugar syrup so I cheated.  I dissolved about a tablespoon of powdered pectin in an equal amount of water and stirred it into the boiling jam.  It seems to have done the trick.  This recipe only made five half-pints, which is okay as it's extremely sweet.  If you’ve been counting though, that brings the total up to 26 half-pint jars thus far.

And I still wasn’t finished with the apricots.  While I was preparing them for the apricot-sauternes jam, I also prepped some for apricot jam with hibiscus and cardamom.  I chose a slightly different technique for this jam.  Instead of immediately cooking it, I mixed the majority of the ingredients together and allowed them to macerate overnight in the refrigerator.  The purpose for that mostly being because it was getting late (9:00 p.m. by the time I finished the other apricot jam), I still had a big mess to clean up, and I was getting tired of standing at the stove.

This morning, I finished the jam.  When cooking this batch, I kept the temperature set a little lower in an attempt to avoid the violent spattering previously experienced.  Again, however, it didn’t seem as though the jam was going to reach 220°F without a much longer cooking period than I wanted.  And so again, I added a small amount of pectin slurry to shorten the cooking time.  This recipe made six half-pint jars perfectly, so I didn’t have any left over to sample.  However, an afternoon yogurt snack gave me the excuse to try it.  Happily, it's not nearly as sweet as the apricot-sauternes jam.  Unhappily, I'm not tasting the cardamom; but I find with cardamom, it's better to err on the side of too little versus too much and the flavor may develop over time.

peach brown sugar jam, apricot sauternes jam, apricot jam with hibiscus and cardamom
So as of today, I have 32 half-pint jars of jam and jelly.  This is in addition to 15 jars remaining (not including the too tart Rangpur lime marmalade) from last year’s jam session.  In all fairness to myself, some of that recently made will be given as gifts.  That being said, however, I still have plans for more jams and jellies in the future. 

all but the last six jars

No, indeed, I cannot possibly be labeled as reasonable.

Peach Brown Sugar Jam
Adapted from Put ‘em Up! By Sherri Brooks Vinton

1 cup water or white grape juice
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
1.8 kg (4 lbs) ripe freestone peaches
200 g (1 cup) granulated sugar
200 g (1 cup packed) brown sugar
1 Tbs Pomona’s Universal Pectin
2 Tbs pure maple syrup
1 Tbs calcium water (included with pectin; see instructions on box)

Prepare a boiling water bath canner and seven half-pint jars and lids. 

Combine the water (or grape juice) and lemon juice in a large, non-reactive pot.  Peel, pit and dice the peaches, dropping them into the pot with the juice mixture as you go.

Bring the peach mixture to a boil over medium high heat.  Cook for five minutes, stirring to avoid sticking and burning.  Meanwhile, combine the sugars and the pectin in a small bowl and stir together.

Lightly crush approximately one-third of the peaches.  Add the sugar/pectin mixture and stir to dissolve.  Add the maple syrup.  Return the mixture to a full boil and boil for one minute.

Stir in the calcium water and immediately remove from the heat.

Ladle the hot jam into the clean jars leaving 1/4" headspace.  Position lids on the jars and screw on the bands finger tight.  Place the jars in the water bath canner and once the water returns to a boil, process for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes turn off the heat, remove the lid from the canner and let the jars rest in the water for five minutes.  Remove the jars to a rack and cool 24 hours.  Check to make sure all of the jars sealed, refrigerating any that didn’t.  Remove the bands from the sealed jars, label with the contents and date, and store in a cool, dark place for up to one year.

Makes approximately seven cups of jam.

Apricot Jam with Hibiscus & Cardamom
Yield:  about 6 cups

1430 g pitted fresh apricots, halved and quartered
juice from half of a large lemon
450 g granulated sugar
250 g turbinado sugar
1/8 tsp kosher salt
3/8 tsp ground cardamom, divided
1/2 tsp dried organic hibiscus petals
1 Tbs powdered pectin (such as Ball or Sure-Jel)
2 Tbs warm water

Toss the apricots with the lemon juice in a large, non-reactive bowl.  Stir together the sugars, salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the cardamom.  Add to the apricots and gently toss to combine.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, prepare a water bath canner and six half-pint jars and lids.  Bring the fruit mixture to a gentle boil in a large non-reactive pot, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Add the remaining cardamom and the hibiscus petals.  Skim foam from surface as necessary.  Cook, stirring more frequently as jam thickens, until it is the consistency of very loose jelly and reaches at least 210°F.   

Combine the pectin powder with the warm water and stir to dissolve.  Add to the jam and boil for one minute.  Remove the pot from heat, allow the jam to sit for five minutes and skim again if necessary.

Ladle the hot jam into the prepared jars, and cover immediately with lids.  Screw on the bands finger tight.  Place the jars in the canner and process 10 minutes once the water returns to a boil.  Remove from the heat and allow the jars to sit in the water, uncovered, for five minutes before removing to a rack to cool.  After 24 hours, check the lids to make sure the jars have sealed.  Any jars that did not seal should be refrigerated.  Remove the bands from the sealed jars, label with the contents and date, and store in a cool, dark place for up to one year.


  1. Wow. I am seriously impressed. That is a TON of canned goods. I love the variety you came up with and all the labels you added on to keep them organized. I've been trying to get up the motivation to start canning, but I just haven't managed yet. Hopefully this will be the boos of inspiration I need.

    1. It would be so much easier to get up the motivation for canning if it were cooler! Unfortunately, summmer produce usually won't wait. To tell on myself though, sometimes for jam I will go ahead and freeze fruit at its peak in the summer for jamming in the fall/winter. ;)

    2. Wow that was a lot of canning and I love the combos !! I wish I was your neighbor , wld have loved to can with you. Imagine fresh vegi, canned goodies and a great neighbor :))
      The heat is getting to me too, I spend 2 hrs each night watering my yard.... I love doing it but I wld love it if it were just 10 degrees cooler. I can't believe u r working so hard in this heat. U go girl !!

    3. I think it would be so much fun to have a bunch of friends get together and spend the day canning and sharing what we've made! I may have to work on that for next year. :) Apparently the heat has made me plain crazy as I've been sitting here this evening contemplating going to the orchard tomorrow to get more peaches for peaches canned in ginger syrup - and it supposed to be even hotter!

  2. Great job with the canning! I think I've done an amazing thing when I make a few jars of strawberry, but wow, I am impressed. Love the organisation and the combinations. I too like canning but don't do it enough. Last two years I haven't even made any jam. Need to start jamming again and seems like there is lots of inspiration here!

    1. Thank you, Nazneen! Canning is really experiencing recurring popularity, isn't it? For me though, canning isn't just about preserving food, but also about preserving traditions and memories. I'm always happily reminded of my grandmother and the summers spent on her farm when I'm canning and preserving.


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