From Brenda Dayne:
languorous stirring of warmly softening fruit and melting sugar. The slow rich dribble of scarlet liquid into methodically sterilized jars…and the taste, above all the taste, spooning that little bit of leftover, that tiny bit of still warm and frothy extra that doesn’t make it into the jars…drizzling it onto fresh bread.
I love making jam. I love all sorts of canning and food preservation. But somehow jam is extra special, maybe it’s the jewel colored produce or the cute little jars. I’m certain part of it is the speed – the setup, cooking, and processing are so much more quick then chutneys, sauces, or pickles. All you have to do is heat the fruit and pectin, add the sugar and boil it for a minute. My apple chutney simmers for HOURS.
Commonly known in my house just as “spring jam” I froze the rhubarb when it came from the CSA back in June and Neil and I picked the strawberries in early July. In spite of the earliness of the season it was a sweltering humid 95F day. Needless to say I didn’t make the jam then. We had extra freezer space in July so the berries went in next to the rhubarb. Those fruits plus crystallized ginger from the store:
(combined with plenty of sugar, of course!) make our absolute favorite jam. I make a double batch and it lasts us a year. Opening the last jar is always a melancholy moment. I’ve tried my hand at a few other jams, but never found another that’s such a keeper. I think it’s the little extra something that the ginger gives it. All that’s changed this year. I think I’ve found another keeper. Peach nutmeg jam.
Peaches are in season here in the north-east, and in season is the only time I ever buy peaches, all others just disappoint me. While changing canning recipes is not recommended it is generally accepted that you can add or swap dry spices without creating a science experiment instead of food. My first idea was to make a peach ginger jam. But I was already making a strawberry jam with ginger in it. I turned to my spice cabinet for ideas and settled on peach nutmeg jam (after ruling out peach cinnamon, peach cardamom, and peach garlic)
By the end of two batches of jam my kitchen was a sticky, sticky mess. But I have plenty of jam, maybe we won’t run out this year (we don’t eat it all, some lucky people get it as gifts) And as always I learned something new. As much as I love the cute, squat jars (I bought a 4 pack just for the shape) I don’t know if I’ll use them for canning again. Of the 4 jars TWO of the lids came off in the water bath. I know all about screwing the rings on “finger tight.” I even know what happens if you screw those rings on too tight (answer – the bottom of the jar blows off due to all the pressure. Don’t ask how long the canning kettle took to clean after that) And because I lift the jars into the bath with the jar grabber I KNOW those rings were on when they went into the bath.
All was not lost. The sugary fruit mostly stayed in the jar (I have no idea what the physics are behind that), it just got watered down, so we have many jars of jam, and two tasty jars of ice cream topping. It’s all good.