Before we go any further on this post, I have to say that you shouldn’t follow anything outlined in this recipe because honestly, I have no idea if my jam is going to stay sterile or kill all of my family members and friends when I give it to them at Christmas. Find a real canning website and follow their instructions, then come back here to see what not to do.
I go to my local farmer’s market almost every Sunday for two things: 1. Cheap gorgeous flower bouquets and 2. $15 half-flats (that’s 6 pints) of berries, peaches, nectarines and apricots from Schedeen Farms in Boring, OR (yes, that’s the town’s real name). This week, I got all berries in hopes of making some cheap and easy, yet still thoughtful and fancy, Christmas presents.
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The one thing I do know about canning is that you have to boil the crap out of everything before you start and again as you go. By everything, I mean your canning jars and your utensils, including:
- Berry Masher (I used a whisk, I would suggest using a potato masher or something more sturdy)
- Spatula (the plasticky kind you use when baking to scrape batter off the ends)
- Jar Lifter (tongs work but the real deal made for canning makes life much easier)
- Measuring cup and measuring spoons
You should also clean and prep your workspace. Along with the utensils above, you’re going to need:
- Cooling racks
- Dish towels for underneath the cooling racks
- Someone to help you avoid burning yourself (I chose D.E. for this job)
- 18 cups of berries, I did blueberries, blackberries and raspberries
- 8 cups sugar (this was less than the recipe called for – gawd is it a scary amount when you pour it in)
- 4 pouches liquid pectin
- 6 tbsp lemon juice
Here it’s important to follow the instructions on the recipe you found. For mine, I added the sugar, pectin and lemon juice and brought it all to a boil for about 10 minutes until it had “gelled” – or thickens when placed on a cold spoon in the fridge for about 2 minutes. Because of this gelling, the longer you wait to clean the wok, the harder it will be, so as soon as the jam is all in the jars, wipe this baby clean.
Here’s where the hard part comes in: not burning yourself.
I did not succeed at this.
I burned myself while filling the warm jars with berriesa nifty canning funnel. I burned myself while screwing the lids on those jars. And I especially burned myself putting those jars into boiling hot water, I used a jar lifter.
After so many burns, D.E. took over putting the jars in and taking the jars out of the boiling water. Once out, we put the jars in another pot of warm water to help them adjust to the cold, cruel world so they won’t crack and kill us all.
Once all your jars are filled, boiled and sealed, it’s time to go to bed. Don’t clean (except the berry-filled wok), don’t fuss, just sleep. If you’re anything like me, it will be 3 a.m. before you get finished so I probably don’t have to tell you twice.
In the morning, you can excitedly wake up to see how your jam faired overnight. Check to see if all the lids popped down. If they’re flexible at all you have to reseal them according to your recipe or your jar brand’s problem solver website.
I came up with a super-scientific, fail-proof, sure way to see if your jam sealed. Hold it upside down.
Because this jar has a lot of headspace – or air between the contents and the lid – it won’t seal properly, so we had to place it in the fridge and eat it right way (bummer!), but the rest of our jams turned out splendid. Because we’re big dorks who just saw Harry Potter 7, Part II for the second time, we named the jam Dragon’s Blood, and D.E. made awesome labels for our cans saying so.
Throw a ribbon around these beauties and we have ourselves the perfect present for berry-loving family and friends.
As much as making jam is a mess, it was really nice to spend some quality time making something with D.E. and I think our jam became a metaphor for our relationship. Sure, it’s a bit thick and chunky and who knows if it will keep but – even though we have room to grow and learn – the result of our hard work as a team is something heartfelt and delicious that we can share with our family and friends.