It is time to finally write about jamming.
Yes, it’s canning time. Happy days for people like me.
Let me tell you how I became a canner. It may be a story like many canners but for now it is my story. Like all stories, it will meander about because life is nothing if not meandering.
My Grandparents were from Russia and Poland. They came to Canada very poor. This was in the 1920’s. The Depression. My Zaidy was an electrician by trade and his brother knew a good deal when he saw one. They began to amass land and become fairly well off. This being said when my Dad was born in the 30’s my Zaidy said to my Bubby….You will stay home and look after the family and home. Yup, back in the day this was cool. My point? Well at this time canned food was the rage. It was after the war and the people who could afford to did not eat fresh but canned. This is not home canning but tins of processed peas with oodles of salt, jams with tons of sugar and pectin. My Grandmother did not pass down canning.
Enter my Mother, whom you have heard about before. Her love of farmers markets, making her own jam and then eventually creating Sable and Rosenfeld foods. Some of the first products that they sold were; pear halves in Cointreau, chunky vegetable Antipasto and her partner’s Mother’s Russian Mustard. This was a very hot, sweet, sticky mustard.
I come on the scene, loving to go pick berries, eat potatoes hot and buttery out of the garden and make jam. My first attempt at jam without my Mom was at sleep away camp when I was 7. My friend and I found a wild strawberry patch, picked the berries and brought them back to the mess hall at lunch. We washed the berries in the bathroom, took a soup bowl and mashed them up with sugar. Even then I knew pectin and jam shouldn’t meet. We packed this jam in 2 cups stuck together, taped them and sent them home to our parents. As you are probably thinking this did not go very well. Needless to say all the mail was pink, yet delicious.
My kids are born and I have a big love for Ontario and all things that grow here. It is magical. We have nothing, hot house yes, but really nothing growing for 6 months so to me when spring rolls around and the world wakes up I find myself in a happy place. Like most I took my kids berry picking where most berries were consumed in the field but some did in fact make it home. We washed those berries, mashed those berries, covered them in sugar and cooked. We made jam. That simple.
Today I still make jam and probably will forever. Today I try very hard to keep it simple which is not always easy for me. I love to twist things around, add creative touches but always leave a few jars just fruit and sugar.
Let’s keep on with Strawberry jam.
Sterilize jars and lids. This means a trip in the dishwasher.
The jam is crazy simple.
Two parts fruit to one part sugar. We clean our berries very well, we cut stems, leaves and any brown bits off and put them in a pot. Here comes a trick. I like to cover them in the sugar and let the sugar melt and soften the berries. Why? It leaches out all the flavor and juices from the berries and acts as the natural liquid to cook them in. I then turn on the heat in a heavy bottomed pot to medium and cook. Once the berries start to bubble I skim off the foam. This foam is nothing other than bits of the strawberries rising to the top. It is edible but it makes for a cloudy jam. I personally like my jam to look like jewels and this is an easy step. Once all the foam is gone I take a masher and mash up the berries leaving a good amount of texture. Boil gently until the jam coats the back of a spoon leaving a nice clear line down the middle. It will look liquidy but it will thicken up. This will never be the gelatinous jam of pectin fame rather it will be sexy, run down your arm, happy jam. Pour into jars to the first inner ring, seal gently and place into a pot of room temperature water. Place on the heat bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. When this is done the jars should “pop”, the belly button should become concave and it is now ready to store. If this does not happen you can either store in the fridge to eat immediately or open the jar. Look for a bit of jam on the ring; wipe it off and re boil.
Now, here is the fun. When I make a flat of berries it is a lot of jam. Before I jar it all I scoop into a smaller pot a few jars worth and mix it with fresh chocolate julienned mint, I do this again with orange and lemon zest and maybe again with vanilla bean.
You can try this too. Make sure they are labeled or marked so you know which is which when they come out of the processing pot.
Try your own inventions…whatever tickles your fancy. Or, better still make it easy on yourself by purchasing a few quarts of strawberries, which will make 6 jars and simply enjoy.
I hope you give this a try. I know it will bring your happiness.
As always, I would love to hear from you with thoughts, opinions and questions.