Monday, August 20, 2012

A newbie's guide to making and preserving jam

Just a little break from the knitting talk (or the unrealized knitting aspirations) to tell you guys about my weekend adventure.

I made jam!

Or, possibly, syrup!

I'm not sure yet.

Time will tell.

And I had so much fun, I thought I would provide some guidelines for other knitters interested in making and preserving jam/syrup/fruit-based something-or-other.

Apologies in advance that this won't be a picture heavy post. It's hard to boil fruit and take pictures at the same time.

Start by fitting an assortment of canning jars into a canning rack, placing it in the largest pot you can find, filling the whole thing with water, and bringing it to a boil. Let them simmer a bit while you make the jam. Also get your bands and lids together. Put the lids top-side-up in a bowl nearby.

Then, get a bucket of fruit. I fought a lot of bees and assorted annoying bugs for this bucket, and a similar looking bucket of blackberries.


Check your recipe for the amount of prepared (read: crushed) fruit you need, forget that whole fruit =/= crushed fruit in volume, and plan the rest of your jam-making adventure around incorrect math. Fun!

Dump your fruit in a big pot, mash it up, add the pectin (thickening agent), bring to a boil, than add gobs and gobs of sugar (jam = 200% sugar), and bring to a boil again. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly while trying not to splash yourself with boiling fruit.

After 1 minute, take it off the heat. It will look like syrup. Apparently you should scoop some up in a spoon, let it cool to room temp, and assess the gel--if it doesn't look like jam, boil some more. My recipe didn't include this step, though, so I didn't check my jam and have no idea if I did it right or not. Oops. (For what it's worth, some blobs that I spilled in the sink while cleaning up congealed to look like jam, so I have high hopes.)

Now, the jars.

Get your jar tong thingies

and carefully grab a jar out of the simmering pot. It will, of course, be filled with near-boiling water.

Carefully, carefully move it toward the bowl with your canning lids. Carefully carefully tip the water into the bowl (apparently the warm water will help soften the rubber around the edges for better sealing). Carefully carefully don't scream when some near-boiling water splashes down the front of your shirt. Set the now-empty jar on a nearby towel.

Repeat with the remaining jars. At least once, possibly several times, accidentally drop the jars back into the boiling water, shriek, scare the cats and scald your hand. Stupid tongs.

Cursing optional, but encouraged.

Once you have all your hot, empty jars assembled, ladle your syrup/jam into the jars. Wipe the rims, somehow, even though everything is hot enough to sear your skin, then put the lids on top and screw on the bands.

Get your nearly-useless tongs again, and carefully pick up each jar and put it back in the pot of hot, hot water, being super extra careful (you spend a lot of time being careful, did you notice?) not to drop. Once all the jars are arranged neatly in the canning rack, put the lid back on the pot, bring to a boil, and "process" for set time (in my case, 10 minutes). Then turn off the heat, remove the pot's lid and let the jars chill in the slightly-less-hot water for 5 minutes.

You might use this 5 minutes to clean up the blobs and splashes of congealed fruit goop that are EVERYWHERE.

Super fun time again! Find the damn tongs and slowly and carefully lift the still-simmering jars of fruit product out of the water. Lift them straight up, no tilting. Sure, hot hot water is pooled on top of each lid, but don't try to pour it off or bad things might happen. I can't remember what, exactly, the book claimed could happen, but just don't do it. Instead, slowly airlift your hot jars of syrup/jam over to the counter, trying not to drip hot hot water on your feet, which are, of course, bare.

Once all the jars are out, smile at them happily, ignoring any odd popping sounds.


Let your jars sit for 24 hours. Then, check the seals. If the lids are suctioned down and don't do that fun popping thing when you press down on them, you did it! If they do pop up and down, they're not sealed, and you have to eat 8 jars of jam/syrup within 3 weeks.

I'll be checking my jars tonight--fingers crossed!

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