Last weekend, I decided that it was once again time to make some summer jams. I love doing this in summer when there is an abundance of fresh fruit available, so I can save it for winter when fruit is almost nonexistent. I had made a special trip to the farmer’s market the week before to pick up fruit for this very reason.
*when you’re making peach jam, it doesn’t hurt to throw in one nectarine when you didn’t buy enough*
I have a copy of Marisa McClellan’s book Preserving by the Pint. The two things I love most about this book are that she has divided all the recipes up by season, and that each recipe only makes a few jars of the recipe. If you’re like me, and you don’t need 12 jars of one kind of jam, or you just like some variety in your life, this book is perfect. There are also several recipes that can’t be processed and sealed, and therefore need to be eaten in a short period of time. For these recipes, a 1 or 2 jar yield is made.
I love that she divides the recipes by season, because it cuts down on so much time searching for ingredients in your grocery store, or checking what is in season (I don’t have this knowledge at my memorized disposal, as I’m sure some of you do). When I want to make something, I only look in the chapter for the season I am currently in. This way, I don’t get tempted by all the bright, colourful fruit in the Summer chapter, and desperately run to the store, thinking I can find fresh plums in the dead of winter. Yes, I know it is possible to use frozen fruit instead for jams, but that just feels so wrong to me.
For my day of jam making, I selected two recipes: the Blueberry Maple Jam, and the Salted Brown Sugar Peach Jam (spoiler: they are as good as they sound).
The blueberry jam was the easiest jam I have ever made. It involves throwing all the ingredients into a pot after mashing the berries a bit, and leaving it to boil for a sustained amount of time. Personally, I found that I had to double or even triple the amount of time the book suggests to boil the jam. The recipe says to let it boil for 10-12 minutes, but I ended up boiling mine for about 45 minutes until I was confident that the jam would set. The recipe explains how to check if the jam is ready by dipping a spoon into it, then trailing your finger through the jam. If the trail does not fill in, and the channel you’ve created sits motionless, the jam should be ready. I like to go by this, but also the overall consistency of the jam. If it is extremely runny in the pot, it is likely not going it set. Another way to check is to dip a spatula into the jam and let it hang vertically over the pot. If the jam rapidly drips off the end of the spatula, like water would, it is not ready. If it seems more sluggish, and the drops take a moment to form and fall, you’re in business. This is probably the trickiest part of making jam – you don’t want a runny syrup that will just saturate a piece of toast. That’s of no use to anyone. I like to err on the side of caution when it comes to boiling times. If you’re not sure, just keep cooking it for another five minutes.
The peach jam was a bit more challenging, only because I seem to be cursed when it comes to removing peach skins. No matter what method I use for blanching the peaches, the skins never seem to come off in a uniform piece. I end up having to grab a paring knife to finish the job.
*or in this case, Michael did*
This day was no different, and although I blanched the peaches, I ended up cutting the skins off. Once that was done, the recipe was very straightforward, with a few ingredients and some mashing. I boiled the jam for about 20 mins – double what the recipe suggests. Peaches are very high in pectin, which is the thing that causes jam to set. For this reason, you don’t have to worry as much about setting when it comes to peach jam, and other fruits high in pectin, such as apples.
After a few hours, all the jam was finished. I then processed them all in a hot water bath and sealed them. Needless to say, they are SO good. If you are considering giving homemade jams a try, I highly recommend this book. The recipes could not be simpler. There is also a wide variety of things to make – the whole book is not just jams.
Michael and I have been eating jam almost every day!