Thursday, July 24, 2008
We be Jammin'!
Okay, people, put away your fear and preconceptions, today is jamming day!
Canning in general has a bad reputation. Is this you image? A woman (perhaps barefoot and pregnant?) slaving away the day in a hot, steaming kitchen with sweaty, vinegar coated hair pasted to her face. This isn't a prerequisite to canning. A person of any gender, in any state of reproductive development, may preserve food of small or large quantity to enjoy in the months when the garden (or local farms) are under a weight of snow and ice. I won't harp on this point, but with the cost and dwindling supply of petroleum, eating local makes a lot of sense. It can also be fun, rewarding, and a healthy way to eat. (The Ball Jar company should hire me as their spokeswoman.) There is one more thing that I want to say about canning: it doesn't have to be a herculean endeavor and you don't have to can enough to feed your family for 10 months. Yesterday morning I canned 5 jars of raspberry jam in an hour. No big deal. No great quantity. Yet now we have five jars of jam that we don't have to purchase from the store and they don't have to be shipped 3,000 miles from a Californian organic food source (and I might smugly add they surpass the quality of store-bought). Don't let anyone ever tell you that small steps don't matter.
So how did I do it? As Queen of the Meadow, I began with 2 quarts of a purple raspberry aptly named Royalty. Purple raspberries are a cross between red and black. As they ripen they begin red and are edible at this stage, but get better as they turn a shade of purple.
I use Pomona's Pectin which allows me to make jam quickly (you don't have to stand over the stove for hours, pregnant or not) and to use little or no sugar. Without pectin you have to add gobs of sugar in order to get the jam to thicken. This pectin also has a "Jam Hotline" phone number on it. I have called and spoken with "Pomona" as she stood in her kitchen shuffling through her papers to find me other recipes not listed on the box. I felt so cool - in a retro sort of way - to speak with the pectin lady on the phone.
There are clear, concise recipes in the pectin box (as well as in the most preserving book) so I'm not going to give exact details here (email me if you want this recipe). I just want to give you a sense of how easy it is.
You have three pots on the stove: one for boiling/sterilizing jars, one for boiling/sterilizing lids, and one for the fruit. You boil the jars and lids to sterilize them and then let them sit in the hot water. That's done. You boil the fruit and then add your sugar and pectin mixture and boil a few minutes more. That's done. You take the hot jars out of the water, fill them with hot cooked fruit, and put on the hot lids. Done. Then you boil the full jars with the lids on for five more minutes to seal the lids. ALL Done!
I actually used honey instead of sugar for my jam, but you can also use any kind of alternate sweetener - sucanat, stevia, or juice concentrate. Honey definitely adds its own flavor so you have to use a strong enough flavored fruit so that it does not over-power the taste of the jam.
Next week: the wild blueberries!