|Pint jars cooling on the kitchen table.|
It is not difficult to make jam. Unless you consider actually having to measure things trickier than necessary, and maybe math isn't your best subject. In the past I've foolishly believed that I could just throw a few fruits in a pan with some sugar and a box of that stuff and everything would work out. (Last year I made a pretty spectacular super adhesive from several pounds of precious wild Michigan blueberries.) So this time, I put on my apron, got out the Ball Canning Chart, a kitchen timer, and my oversize calculator.
I planned on two batches: plum and strawberry hibiscus-honey. Thanks to the totally unfair fractions used by the Ball Canning Chart it was touch and go there for a while (major props to The Husb here for not just leaving when I was following him around with my giant calculator and shrieking "but does that make SENSE?!!"), but through some dark magic both batches set up perfectly, and every single airlock sealed. Yes.
The best news is that for once I remembered to write it all down, so next time shouldn't put either my fragile brain or my marriage in any danger. Or maybe the real best news is that now I have 10 pints of freaking delicious homemade jam on my kitchen counter. I did my best to translate them into a normal person recipe, and you can find both of them, plus canning instructions, after the jump.
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*I bought a smallish bulk jar (instead of pre-measured packets or boxes) of Ball Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin available with canning supplies, usually in the baking aisle of the grocery store. The brand is probably not important, but make sure to use the low or no-sugar needed pectin or all these measurements will mean nothing; I prefer a slightly less-sweet jam than the standard jar of Smuckers so the flavor of the fruit can come through...I promise, it's still delicious. I mean, freaking delicious.
Boiling the kernels from the pits in the jam adds a layer of flavor to this bright jam.
6 lb ripe plums, halved and pits removed and reserved (or 9 C plum puree)
3 1/4 C granulated sugar
10 Tbsp Ball Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin
2 C water (can also use fruit juice or concentrate; I used water)
To remove the peels from the plums, use a knife to score a line through the skin of each plum half once and place them in a large pot with a couple of inches of water in the bottom. Turn heat to high and allow to heat a few minutes.
While the plums are heating up, break the pits open by placing them on a cutting board and using a hammer or meat tenderizer (flat side). Discard shell and coarsely chop kernels. Place kernels in a tea diffuser or tie inside a coffee filter.
Check the plums for the skins starting to peel back at the edges. The skin should peel quickly and easily away from the fruit with the help of a paring knife. If plums are too hot to handle, cool slightly before peeling. The skins can be discarded or save them and squeeze liquid into the processed fruit to brighten the color.
Working in batches, pulse fruit in food processor to desired consistency (I have a picky eater that won't touch anything with chunks, so I pureed mine completely). You need a total of 9 C of fruit. If you have any extra, save it for another use.
At this point, you should prep the water bath for canning (instructions at bottom) and ready your jars and lids. In a large, heavy pan, combine fruit, pectin, water, and coffee filter of plum kernels. Mix thoroughly to dissolve pectin. Bring fruit to a full, rolling boil that can't be stirred down. At the sugar and return to boil, stirring constantly to prevent burning. When the mixture is boiling hard again, boil one minute, still stirring. Remove from heat and skim any foam if necessary. Discard filter of kernels. Ladle hot jam into sterilized jars and process according to instructions below.
Strawberry Hibiscus-Honey Jam
The hibiscus tea brings out the floral notes of the honey and strawberries.
5 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved (or 6 C mashed fruit)
6 3/4 Tbsp Ball Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin
1 1/2 C water (or fruit juice)
2 1/4 C honey
1-2 tea bags hibiscus tea (I used one Tazo Passion tea bag)
Prep fruit by mashing with a potato masher one layer at a time in a large, heavy pan. (Due to above mentioned child in the house, I pulsed mine in the food processor till only slightly chunky and crossed my fingers that this would still be acceptable.) Make sure you have a total of 6 C of mashed fruit. Reserve any excess for another use.
This would be the time to prep the water bath and ready your jars, if you haven't already.
Mix pectin and water into the fruit, and stir well. Place tea bag(s) in pan with fruit and bring to a full rolling boil that can't be stirred down. Add the honey and return to boil, stirring constantly. When the mixture is boiling hard again, boil one minute, still stirring. Remove from heat and skim any foam if necessary. Discard tea bag(s). Ladle hot jam into sterilized jars and process according to instructions below.
Equipment for Canning:
5-6 pint canning jars with lids
tongs or tool for removing jars from boiling water
oven mitts and hot pads aplenty
clean damp cloth or paper towel
Once your fruit is prepped, but before you bring that jam anywhere near the heat, get your canning equipment ready. Having everything laid out ahead of time will help a ton and keep you from running around your kitchen like a crazy person and possibly burning yourself or someone else. Have a towel laid out for the sterilized jars, and another for the finished jars of jam to cool on. Also make sure to have hot pads or oven mitts ready to handle hot jars (wet towels or hot pads transfer heat much more quickly than dry, so be careful not to splash).
Bring a large stockpot of water to boil. You need the water level to be deep enough to cover your jars by one or two inches, so a big pot is a must. Mine accommodates four or five pint jars at a time. When the water is boiling, you can sterilize the empty jars and lids by putting them in the boiling water for a few minutes. Or if you have a setting on your dishwasher you can sterilize the jars that way as well.
When the water bath is boiling and your jars and lids are sterile, you can start to boil your jam. After the jam has finished its second boil and is removed from the heat, ladle into hot jars, leaving a half inch of headspace. (You will likely have a small amount of excess jam which you can either use to fill a half-pint jar or simply refrigerate for immediate use. Do not process half-full jars.) Wipe the rim with a clean cloth to ensure a seal, and tighten bands just to fingertip tight. Carefully, using the jar tool or a pair of rubber-tipped tongs, place full jars of jam with lids secured in the boiling water bath. Work in batches to avoid crowding the pot. When the water begins to gently boil again after adding the jars, process for ten minutes. Remove jars with tongs or jar tool and allow to cool.
Check airlock on lids after twenty four hours by pressing the middle of the lid with your finger. If the lid is tight and doesn't pop or flex when pressed, the airlock is sealed and your jam can safely be stored in the cupboard up to a year. Refrigerate any jars that do not seal after twenty four hours.