Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jammin' Season

It's that time of year! Get out the water bath canner, the mason jars, and stock up on your favorite fruits. It's jammin' season!

With a batch of strawberry jam already under my belt earlier this year, I was ready to spend some serious jam-making time in the kitchen. Last week, my friend Tammy brought me the season's first peaches promising me a chin-dripping experience. She wasn't kidding! Not only were the peaches gorgeous, but the were sweet, juicy, and PERFECT for a batch of jam. 

Then, as I reported yesterday, I loaded up on blackberries at the farmers' market Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon then became a jam-fest with my friend Pilar as we made two batches of blackberry jam (my mother-in-law's favorite). So in addition to the batch of strawberry jam in April, the batch of peach jam last week, and Saturday's batches of blackberry jam, I'm well on my way towards tasty, homemade gifts that will last throughout the next year. 

One small change in this year's jam session. Last year, I used regular old pectin from the grocery. This year, I jammed smarter. I picked up several boxes of Pomona's Universal Pectin from the natural food store. It's cheaper per batch AND because it uses calcium to activate the fruit's natural pectin, it only uses 2 cups of sugar per batch (vs 5-7 cups of sugar with the other brand that uses sugar to activate the pectin). And since I'm buying organic sugar in bulk (which can get pricey fast), less sugar is good for our bodies and my budget. 

It's amazing to think back just over a year, before I had canned my first jar of anything. How difficult I assumed canning would be, yet here I am canning like a pro! So for those of you hesitant to try, get on out there and give it a go! Ask around for someone to show you (you'll be an expert after the first time, I promise). Chances are, there are people near you who would love to pass on their years of canning experience. Or worst case scenario, check out Alton Brown's canning episodes (Part 1 and Part 2) on YouTube.

Not ready to invest in the supplies? Check out Craigslist or ask around. Many of the supplies now in my home were hand-me-downs from friends and some of Dave's co-workers. When they found out I was canning, they were more than happy to pass on those canning supplies taking up space in the closet at home. Thanks again, everyone!

Now a year after my first jamming session, I'm getting requests from family for refills of their favorite jams. It's about as perfect a birthday, housewarming, or holiday gift as you can get. It's simple, frugal, and will keep friends and loved ones coming back for more. Now, how about one more batch of peach...
For more on how to make jam, visit "Strawberries Preserves" (May 2008)
For more on using Pomona's Universal Pectin, visit "After all that Picking" (Oct 2008)

11 comments:

Beany said...

Hey you read my mind! I just jammed with a blogger friend this past weekend and it was so much fun. We canned strawberry jelly and it was so fun, it didn't feel like work. Best part was that it actually worked out. Now I want to jam some more.

organicneedle said...

This is so funny. I just was working on a post for later in the week about needing tips for beginning canning. I will have a TON of questions for you!

Heather @ SGF said...

Beany - I agree! It's so much more fun with a friend. We had a blast!

OrganicNeedle - ask away! You can either post questions here or send them to my email (address on the side bar). Be prepared to be amazed at how easy and fun it is!

Anonymous said...

Oh YUM! You have peaches already?

I also did strawberry jam last week. I can't wait for peaches.

Sharon
SimplyCanning.com

Karen said...

You are so far ahead of us here in Iowa! We are still in the asparagus/lettuce/radish stage of the season, though my strawberries all are blooming...
Sigh.
I'll just have to patient.

Green Bean said...

I've got the Pomona's pectin too but it never occurred to me that it uses less sugar. I'm so switching to that!

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

I am going to have to keep an eye out for that pectin, berries and such are starting to come into season here in Missouri and I would love to take advantage. I didn't can any jam or jelly last year except for a single jar of apple butter. I can't wait to try it out!

Heather @ SGF said...

Sharon - Yep! We've had peaches most of this month and will continue through July. And they're SOOOOOO juicilicous! :)

Karen - You know, when I first started eating all locally produced foods, my timing was WAY off on the harvest. I never expected to have some of these fruits so early either (I lived 11 years in Indiana where - of course - the seasons are VERY different from here). Now, I just love our 12 month growing season and the promise of fresh fruits in February. We have lots of room here in Texas if you feel like moving :)

Green Bean - Oh, yeah! That's the best part!

Jennifer - I didn't see it at any of our regular groceries, but they did have it at our natural food store. I know you can get it on-line too, if all else fails.

Donna said...

Peaches? Blackberries? Boy, you sure don't live in the Pacific Northwest. :) I bought some strawberries from the market last weekend, but they just aren't as sweet as they're going to be in a couple more weeks. Loved hearing about your produce, though, and thanks for the tip about the pectin. I'm definitely going to have to look for that.

Farmer's Daughter said...

I managed to time it perfectly... My husband just finished our last jar of strawberry jam last week, and the berries are just starting now! I think I'll make more this year, though, so I can give more away as gifts.

We really don't eat the other kinds as much, so I'm going to focus on canning peaches instead of peach jam.

I love following along with your canning adventures!

Heather @ SGF said...

Donna - Yeah, I was totally shocked last year when I heard our strawberry season starts in February. Needless to say, I was ready this year :)

Farmer's Daughter - I just gave away the last of last year's jam too! We don't eat much jam, but I love giving it as gifts. That's where most of it goes. For us, like you, we'll be canning lots of fresh fruit for the winter (peaches, pears, maybe some blackberries if we end up with lots). This was not a good year for fruit here in Texas though, so we'll see...