As our long, warm days wind toward an autumn respite, the chattering of school-bound children marks the transition from summer. They’ve begun a new year and I a new season.
In these early hours, the morning heat has dissipated and I find myself meandering slowly to our garden, waving to families as they pass, savoring these in-between days. Homemade iced coffee is a welcome companion as I survey the bounty to be collected. It’s a joyous occasion, really, as the harvest bears more than I can carry in the makeshift basket of my skirt: zucchini and kale, tomatoes and broccoli, bouquets of herbs to be tied, hung and dried for tea to sip during the bleak winter months.
Our chickens peck around beside me, nibbling enthusiastically on any imperfect produce I toss to them from the garden. As a city dweller, I grow a modest amount of vegetables in the raised beds fashioned on our lot and edibles around the perimeter. The bounty is rarely enough to preserve in any great quantity so I rely on the overabundance of my mom’s prolific crops a few hours away, a friend’s farm when they’ve filled their larder, and an annual visit to our neighborhood farmers market for flats of berries that will line our shelves as jam.
Canning has become my meditation as well as my means to preserve local, organic food for consumption year-round while retaining as much of the nutritional value as possible. In my experience, canning jam is the perfect activity for beginning food preservationists as it is simple, straight-forward and delicious.
Today, I would like to share my go-to recipe for jam sans pectin from Ball Blue Book: Guide to Preserving. I recommend that anyone interested in canning pick up a copy of this book and educate yourself on the process of canning prior to getting starting in order to do so correctly and safely.
Canning jars, half-pint-sized (must be tempered glass to withstand heat)
Metal lids (do not reuse lids)
Small rubber spatula
Damp, clean washcloth
Metal canning rack
Berry Jam (yields about 3 pints)
9 cups crushed berries6 cups sugar
Combine berries and sugar in a large sauce pot. Stir frequently over medium heat until sugar dissolves and jam reaches boiling. Continue to stir frequently to prevent sticking. (I put my berries in whole and allow them to cook down, using an immersion blender halfway through the process.) Jam will thicken to gelling point. Test readiness by dipping a metal spoon into jam and allowing it to drop off onto a dish. The jam is ready when it is thick enough to drop off the spoon in a sheet rather than as a liquid or in droplets.
Set up stock pot for water bath canning by placing canning jars in pot and bringing the water to boil. Maintain boil. It is imperative to can jam in hot, sanitized jars to avoid breakage or bacteria. When jam is ready to can, ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch space at the top. Wipe glass rim with a clean washcloth, add metal lid, and screw on metal ring. Submerge the jars in boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove jars, allow to cool completely, and then store in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.