26 August 2014


I've missed out making jam for the last couple summers. I'd do a batch here and there, but I hadn't been very serious about planning it out so we'd have jam all winter. Last summer I was too pregnant, and then too involved with a newborn, so this summer, I'm making up for it. This requires J. to watch the tiny one, since she has a habit of wandering into the kitchen and demanding to know what I'm doing and to see what's on the stove at the most inopportune moments. Now that we have a Learning Tower (no, I am not affiliated with them, nor do I earn money from this link, I just think it's a cool and useful piece of furniture), I'm hoping that this will be less of a problem, but you never know. 

One of the things that's kick-started this interest in canning is the book Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan. My mum gave me a copy when we moved, and I've already worked through a few recipes. The book is a lovely piece of work; it focuses on small batch canning and offers recipes for interesting but not too exotic jams, jellies, preserves, and sauces, as well as some pickling recipes and a few foods that can go in jars but which aren't canned. I plan to try many of the jam recipes and a few of the pickles. The canned tomatoes and tomato sauce are also on my list.

Image from foodinjars.com
Small batch canning interests me partly because I don't like turning an entire flat of apricots into jam--it's very time-consuming and it leaves us with nothing but apricot jam for the winter. I prefer to do several small batches of different kinds of jam.

Thus far, from this book, I have tried the strawberry vanilla jam, the apricot jam, the peach plum ginger jam, the nectarine lime jam, and the blueberry jam. The cantelope and spiced plum jams are also on the list. Pickled asparagus is on the list for later this week, since asparagus was on sale at the produce store (our new home is three blocks from a great produce store--we're already eating more vegetables just because I like going there).

The thing that has revolutionized my canning is the use of a stockpot instead of a canning pot for canning in. It's deep enough, big enough for about half a dozen jars at a time, does not rust after a season or two like the enamel-ware, and is not a uni-tasker. This is one of those brilliant ideas that had never occurred to me before, but is mentioned in McClellan's book as a great option to a canning pot that takes up space and doesn't get used for anything besides canning. I still need to get a round rack to put in the bottom of it, but so far I've yet to break a jar in it.

The other thing that somehow never occurred to me in the past was the use of a candy thermometer to make sure I've reached the jelling stage. That makes a huge difference. I used to mostly end up with syrup instead of jam. Great on pancakes or waffles, not quite as great on toast. And I'm more of a toast person than pancakes or waffles, since I tend not to be hungry in the morning.

Once I check off the spiced plum jam tonight, I have plans for pickles and cantelope jam later this week. Should be fun. I'm rather enjoying the process of filling up the cupboards for the winter.

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