It’s that time of year again, time for jam! I spent a whole day cooking and canning jam and couldn’t help but hum Bob Marley as I did.
Early in the year I bought a book all about canning with lots of different and unusual recipes in it, but I ended up just using the recipes that come with the pectin (except for one, but we’ll get to that in a minute).
Last year I enjoyed giving away my homemade jam just as much as I enjoyed making it, so I planned to make even more this year. I started by laying out the supplies for what I thought would be about four batches of various flavours. Turns out I had way more fruit than I needed.
I started out with grape jelly, my absolute favourite thing for PB&J sandwiches, and I have to admit that I kind of cheated. You’re supposed to start with grapes, cook them, strain them to create a clear juice, and then use that juice to make the jelly. I just bought bottled grape juice (note to self, one large bottle is more than enough, I don’t know what I was thinking when I bought three!). It’s still really tasty, but I’m sure starting with fresh grapes would add a whole other dimension to it.
Next up is the peach jam – actually nectarine because I had a weird brain slip and bought nectarines instead of peaches by mistake. I’m a little disappointed with myself because I forgot to crush the fruit pieces before I started cooking the jam so it separated a bit, but as long as it’s stirred once it’s opened I think it will be fine.
I bought way too many strawberries so I ended up making two batches of strawberry jam (that’s 14 jars!). Luckily strawberry seems to be everyone’s favourite so it won’t be too hard to give some away. The first batch, on the left, was made using liquid pectin and the second, on the right, was made using powdered pectin. I honestly can’t tell the difference, either in taste or texture, between the two, so I guess the different forms are just a matter of personal preference. And now I know that a batch of jam only takes 2.5-3 lb. of fruit.
Finally we have my red currant jam, the only recipe that came out of the book. Instead of using the prepackaged pectin you start by making applesauce, straining that, adding the red currants, and cooking it for a long time so you can take advantage of the fruit’s natural pectin. Needless to say it was a lot of work, more than any of the other jams I made. I know apples are a fairly neutral fruit in terms of their flavour, but I feel like they kind of diluted the red currant flavour. Plus cooking it for so long takes away some of the fresh-from-the-garden deliciousness, or at least it feels that way.
What makes this jam extra special is that the currants are from my garden. I picked them a couple of weeks ago and froze them (it was too hot then to spend a day canning). I thawed them out and into the jam pot they went. I had just enough for the apple/currant version but not enough for the pure red currant version. My currant bushes are only in their second year though, so I think that next year the yield will be greater and I can omit the applesauce.
All the jam laid out to cool – 32 jars in total! There are a few things I’d like to do differently next year. First, pure red currant jam instead of the applesauce version. I’d like to try one or two flavours using a reduced sugar pectin. And I might even attempt the grape jelly from scratch. But I think this will last me until next year’s jam session.