Summer calls for long, hot nights, fresh fruits, picnics, and jamming away! No, not at the music festivals. We're talking about jammin' (and not just to head banging to music) in the kitchen, some good ole fruit preserves! But don't be jelly, I'll share with you our way of jamming, drum roll please! I'll try to sandwich in as many jammy puns as I can, but it can get it bit sticky. Step into our jam session... if you're ready for this jelly.
The Recipe Book
Our tried and true cookbook in our home is The America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook, whew that was a mouth full and when you see the book, it's an armful! This lovely company made a companion book for Foolproof Preserving. This book contains everything! From sweet and savory jams, jellies, and chutneys, to pickles and condiments. All that you can think of to make in small batches at home to preserve your farmer's market finds.
Our local Sur La Table has this handy dandy, jamming kit. In addition to the kit bought a tall stock pot and a canning rack, These all came in handy and highly recommend finding a kit if you are thinking of picking up this hobby. This all adds up quickly, but it is worth it if you know you want to jam, well for us that stock pot comes quite handy when we need to sous vide meat. As we flipped through the book before buying all our goodies, Mark realized he wanted to make pickles, sauerkraut, mustards, jams, the whole lot! While I saw the benefits of the jams and making holiday jam for everyone (sorry for to my friends and family who I just spoiled the surprise for!)
Enough of me jammering away, back to the real reason why you are reading this.... was it all worth it and is it really that easy? YES!
I won't give you all the recipes we used, I'll give you our tips that we figured out along the way. Our first jams were; Strawberry Rhubarb, Raspberry, Blueberry, and Pluot.
We'll break it down into flavor, consistency, and level of difficulty.
Level: Easy, but there is prep work to be done. Along with heating the jars you do have to cut up all the strawberries, rhubarb, and granny smith apple then crush it all. But it is still fairly easy since you throw all ingredients in and cook.
Consistency: This was a little runny. Which means it needed to cook longer. Still tasted great!
Flavor: It was perfect! Mark added less sugar than requested, because it was getting too sweet.
Level: Very easy. There was no prep, throw into the pot and throw in some Sure-Jell, sugar, lemon juice and zest, BOOM done!
Consistency: If we thought the strawberry-rhubarb was runny,,, this had nothing on it. This looked like the inside of a blueberry pie (if you read our Game Of Thrones party blog, you'll hear how we re-used it). This needed to cook twice as long as the recipe told us.
Flavor: Mark learned fast that you add less sugar to the mix, it was getting way too sweet.
Level: Easy, only prep is to grate the granny smith apple.
Consistency: This one we got right! Finally the right consistency! 3rd time is a charm. I don't remember our exact cook time but we learned as the process went on.
Flavor: This wasn't my personal favorite. I am biased though because I'm not a huge raspberry jam. Maybe this one could've used more sugar. My sisters' boyfriend agreed it didn't taste quite right.
Level: Easy, prepping the fruit can be a lot. Our book didn't have a pluot recipe so Mark used the Plum Preserves recipe.
Consistency: Another one we got right!
Flavor: Extremely flavorful and Mark's favorite of this batch. Again, reduced sugar here.
Round 2 of Jamming
nd we amped up production and added pickles! Production line up: Bread + Butter Pickles, Dill Pickles, Strawberry Jam, Blueberry Jam, Apricot Jam, and Peach Jam.
I'll keep this review short and sweet since we finally got it dialed in for how long we should let it cook (we went more by eye than anything) and added less sugar.
The pickles on the other hand... bread + butter were okay, but Dill Pickles were... ON POINT!
This was by far the most successful batch, and we ended giving some jars away. They do have a shelf life of a year but we needed to give some away.
Latest and most recent round, I tried to make jam. Now as I'm making my strawberry and blueberry jams, Mark forgets to tell me to add less sugar. So both my jams ended up being a lot sweeter than I expected. But my consistency was right on target. At least I had that going for me!
If you are thinking of jamming, I highly suggest trying it out! It's a fun weekend project that'll give you a decent amount of jam to store up for jam on toast, or that perfect PB&J! I do recommend buying various sizes of mason jars. Even though the book recommends a certain size and amount per jam, you can end up with more or less than you expected. If you have a half empty jar, you won't get a solid preserve on your jar and it won't last you as long as you want, unless eaten right away.
What are we trying next?
Holiday Jams this fall and Fig-Balsamic Jam once we find some good figs. Stay tuned to find out how we do! Any suggestions on what to do differently or try? Leave us a comment!