Tuesday, October 14, 2008

After all that picking

After all that picking... after the stained clothes, my frozen hands (we were having freak weather that day), the thorns tearing at our arms... after the smiles on our eager, happy, purple dewberry stained faces... I was NOT going to dump 8 hard earned quarts of local dewberries into our compost bin. Sure, the freezing and thawing process had left them with an odd flavor, but I just couldn't. Nope. Sorry. On to Plan B. Right. Plan B. Uh, yeah... Psssst. What's Plan B?

Right. So on to Plan B. Jam! Well, I couldn't eat them the way they were so it wouldn't hurt to do a little experiment, right? Enter Pomona's Universal Pectin, purchased from our local natural food store (Brazos Natural Foods) and recommended by one of my hubby's colleagues as a natural way to make jam with much less sugar (if you've made jam, you KNOW how much sugar goes into a jar - YIKES). As described on their website
Pomona's Universal Pectin is a sugar-free, low-methoxyl citrus pectin that is activated by calcium. Since it does not require sugar to gel, jams and jellies can be made with less, little, or no sugar...
Included in the box were two packets (one calcium powder, the other pectin) and directions. First, you add 1/2 c. water to the calcium powder and store in the refrigerator (for up to several months). The pectin, you just hang on to until you want to make jam. Well, I wanted to make some serious jam, but I needed to make sure those dewberries would taste ok once they were swimming in a little sugar.

I pulled the frozen berries out of the freezer and emptied them into some warm water in the kitchen sink, rinsing them as they defrosted. Next, I dumped them into a pot a few cups at a time and beat the crap out of them with a potato masher (no kids gloves here). The recipe called for 4 cups of mashed berries and I had 12 cups, so I separated them into three 4 cup servings. Alright. In the pot goes 4 cups of berries and 2 tsp of the calcium water. I turned the burner on high and let them heat. I stirred most of the time, but am easily distracted so I got a few things done during the whole process, like measuring out 2 cups of sugar and mixing 2 tsp of pectin into the sugar, I also prepped the jars, got my lids boiling in a sauce pan, and perused the fridge for lunch ideas - oops, getting off target here...

Anyway, so I'm stirring and sooner or later, the fruit starts to boil. Time to add the sugar-pectin mix. I keep stirring and when it again came to a boil, stirred for another 60 seconds and removed from heat. That's it. I ladled it into pint size jars, wiped the rims, topped them with lids and rings, and got them ready for a water bath. But wait a sec. How did the berries taste? 

... Please no Plan C. I don't have a Plan C... 

Only one way to find out and aren't we lucky that I'm a champion spoon licker! Mmmm. Tastes good to me and it gelled up just as I would have expected the Sur-gel to work. Sweet!

Rather than labor through two more heatings, I dumped both 4 c. servings of berries into the pot as well as double the calcium water. I won't bore you by repeating the entire process, so long story short, I ended up with 9 jars of dewberry jam. Mmmm. 

Of course, we aren't done yet. My water bath canner wouldn't take them all at once, so I ran two cycles of a boiling water bath but every single last one of those jars sealed. Yeah!

Because the berries were a little funny when I started, I'll be sure to wait a month and open a jar to taste myself before I give any away. Cross your fingers! If it worked, I was able to single-handedly save my dewberries from certain death (do I get a leotard and cape for this?) and found a natural pectin that uses WAY less sugar (2 cups vs. 7 cups of sugar required for Sur-gel). Not to mention that with ONE (yes, ONE) box of Pomona's Universal Pectin, I made 3 batches of jam and still have enough calcium water and pectin for at least one, probably 2 more batches. All that for $3.50! Sold!


fearlesschef said...

Nice! I was worried that all your work was in vain, but now... and you do certainly deserve at least the cape if not the leotard as well!

Green Resolutions said...

You make it all sound so easy :)

jennconspiracy said...

Still, if you are doing a lot of canning, $3.50 is pricey - I bought a pound on their website and it keeps indefinitely.

Heather @ SGF said...

fearlesschef - I'm thinking maybe a black leotard (since black is slimming, of course) :)

green resolutions - jamming? it is super easy! Of course, I can't believe I'm saying that since I've only been doing it for 6 months. But once you get the hang of it, you can't stop!

jennconspiracy - yeah, but if you get 5 batches out of a box of pectin for $3.50, that's only 0.70 a batch. Much cheaper than the Sur-gel. So you've tried Pomona's too? Similar positive results?