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)