Monday, July 2, 2012

Mini Jam Session

So, three things have happened in the last couple of weeks.
#1, I read about this book and this blog on The Kitchn, and started to get SERIOUSLY interested in small batch canning.
#2, We got a pound of apricots from our CSA.  I don't really like apricots.
#3, I am 42 years old, 39+ weeks pregnant, it's hot, so in an effort to "move things along", I went blueberry picking for 2 hours with a friend and our combined 5 kids (most of them hers right now).  It was 73F when we started and 88F when we finished.  I ended up with almost 5 lbs of blueberries (our 2nd batch of the year).

I have been interested in canning for quite awhile.  I grew up in rural PA, and we did a lot of canning.  It was a necessity thing for us - not a lot of money, and we had a garden.  We would can vegetables (corn, peas, beans), tomatoes (juice, tomatoes, salsa, spaghetti sauce), pickles, and jams in the summer time.  One summer we canned so many pickles and strawberry jam in so many sessions that I had the recipes memorized. I was probably 12 or 13 years old.  It was hot, steamy work, but I loved helping my mom can.

Then I became an adult who didn't cook, much less can.  I tried my hand at freezer jam (pretty easy).  Eventually, a combination of the books I read, the "pick your own" days at our CSA, and my history gave me the canning bug.  So a few years ago, I bought a canning kit.  You know, the big black canning pot and stuff.  We've done a little bit here and there.  Strawberry jam one year, salsa and spaghetti sauce the next year, tangerine marmalade (we have a tangerine tree).  It's a lot of work though. 

The processing of the ingredients is step one.  A bit pot of ... something.  We made our tangerine marmalade out of 9 lbs of tangerines, for example.  It's a lot of chopping and cooking when you are making that.  Then there's proper sterilizing of the jars (the dishwasher helps with that), the lids (on the stove, but then you are up to a 3rd burner you need), you get the picture.  It's a big production.

Then I read about this "small batch canning" method.  I swear I am going to buy this book and some of the equipment.  But I am going to wait a few weeks.  Make sure I really mean it.  One one hand, I'll be home for 3 months this summer and will have "time".  On the other hand, I'm about to give birth.  I probably won't have "time" if past history is any indication.  But small batch canning can be done in an hour or two.

I decided to try a mini-batch of apricot-blueberry jam, because I googled "apricot blueberry recipes", and that's what came up.  I used this recipe, and made a half batch (but did add more sugar, as recommended).  It made slightly more than a pint (I don't have any 1/2 pint jars, need to get those).  I didn't water bath can it - since I only got two jars, one went into the freezer and the other half into the fridge.  The advantage of this small batch method is that it took about an hour to make it because it cooks down so quickly in a small skillet.

Chop the unpeeled apricots and heat over medium-low with the sugar (I used 2 c apricots and 3/4 c sugar)

When the apricots have cooked down a bit (15-20 min), add the blueberries.

Continue to cook for a total of about 45 min, until the jam looks like...well, jam.

Pour into clean or sterilized jars (are you going to freeze or can?) and enjoy!

I would say that the big disadvantage of canning is from a health standpoint.  In order to preserve many fruits as jams, you need a LOT of sugar.  On the other hand, how much jam do you use on a daily basis?  A tablespoon or two?  It's probably okay. 


Biz said...

Before I read it I was going to tell you that you can sterlize your jars in the dishwasher - love that step, makes it so much easier!

Hey, do you want my cooking magazines? I can send them to you parcel post - I think I have 30+ that are all 2012. Just send me an email at with your mailing address if you want them.

You are in the home stretch!

Rosemary Evergreen said...

I began making jam this summer and have now made 4 batches. I recommend the Ball low-sugar pectin. I used 6 c mashed berries + 1 c sugar and the resulting jam was definitely sweet enough for the average person. If you're using sweeter fruit, even less sugar could be used. I contacted the Ball company and they said the shelf life of water-bath canned low-sugar jam is the same as that with a lot of sugar; they recommend consumption within 1 year.

Marcia said...

Thanks for the tip on the low-sugar pectin. I have used Pomona with low sugar recipes too. It has worked well with some (strawberry), but not others (plum - man that was sour!)

Depending on what fruits we get this summer, I may give it another whirl.