Saturday, June 8, 2013

In a little jam...

Our wonderful neighbors Billy and Jane Reed are magnificent gardeners -- and generous! When Billy dropped off some peaches and two nice batches of plums, I had an uncharacteristic attack of kitchen ambition and decided to try to make plum jam. I've never "canned" anything, largely due to a fear of pressure cookers and explosions. But I got on the Google and found a pretty simple looking recipe that mainly just required lots and lots of boiling water and a few other tools, so I gathered a few things at Wal-Mart and got cracking! (Forgive the fuzzy pics - the blogging thing was an afterthought and I just snapped away with my phone!)

I bought a dozen half-pint jars (the recipe will make 8), some sugar, some sure-jell pectin and a little set of canning tools (for $6.95, I think) that included a wide-mouth funnel, jar tongs, a measuring thing and a magnet thing for lifting hot lids out of the boiling water. I also ended up buying the pot at back left which included a rack. I have pots, but I didn't have the rack for lifting and lowering the jars into boiling water, and the whole set was $19, and I thought maybe if I made the investment, I'd do more canning in the future!

The Reeds brought over these small, beautiful red plums and some yellow. I decided to go with these for the color. Wash, pit and chop them. This is the most time-consuming part of the whole process, except for waiting for large pots of water to boil. I opted not to peel them. Aren't there lots of nutrients and fiber and stuff in the peeling? 

The plums they brought were exactly the amount I needed for my recipe! (4 1/2 cups)

Put the plums in 1/2 cup water, bring them to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, then add sugar. The recipe called for 7 1/2 cups (whoa!) but several commenters said if the plums aren't super tart, you don't need as much. I put around 6 cups. You stir that, bring it to a boil, then add the pectin. The recipe calls for one box, but several folks said they used two to get it to "set" properly, so I added two.

Meanwhile, boil the heck out of the new jars and lids in your new canning pot. Remove the jars with the tongs and the lids with this handy-dandy magnet! Coolest gadget I never knew I ever needed!

Then, fill the jars to within 1/8 inch of the top. (Isn't that jam a pretty color?)

This is where the little measuring thing comes in. You can quickly tell if you've filled it to the proper level, and also run it around the edges of the jam to remove bubbles. Apparently, bubbles are bad. The recipe also recommended you skim the foam from the top of the boiling fruit, but I couldn't figure out how to do that. So, disclaimer - my jam may not be bubble-free.

Waiting on their final bath. Now to this point, the whole thing took less than an hour, but after sterilizing the jars, I didn't get a fresh pot of water on to boil and it takes a long time to boil that much water in that large of a pot. The jars are supposed to be submersed in the pot, once the water is boiling, then you bring it back to a full boil, cover and "process" for 10 minutes.

You know what they say about a watched pot, right?

When the water is finally boiling, use your handy jar tongs to place the jars into the boiling water...

...which then takes forever to get back to a rolling boil. But anyway, you get the picture. If you're a little more organized than me, you can get this whole thing done in around an hour!

I totally forgot about labels, so I just took some mailing labels I had and first just scribbled on a few, then decided to try to print some. I am HOPELESS for some reason when it comes to labels! My daughter has to do them for me every time. However, she's at the beach, so I just did the best I could! (I also just-this-minute realized I made labels that say "Pear Jam" when, in fact, I made Plum Jam! 
Bless my heart! Back to the drawing board!)

After filling the eight jars, I had a tiny amount left. I put it in a (unsterilized!) tupperware just to see what would happen and made myself some toast to sample! Pretty tart-sweet! I don't know if this batch will be good enough for gift-giving, but it wasn't a bad first effort!

On an unrelated note (kind of!) my new favorite thing arrived in the mail!
And today, I'd say I'm just "plum" happy!

As with most things, I'd also say if I can do it, anyone can! 
Go get yourself in a jam today!


I'm Jess said...

Those labels turned out so cute, I'm very proud. And who knows when an opportunity for lots of cute, "next record" labels will present itself!? ;)

I'm Jess said...

So cute!! I'm very proud of those labels and who knows when an opportunity for a bunch of cute, "next record" labels may arise :)

Anonymous said...

Still better late than never???? Been without a computer for...ever! This jam was some of the best I've ever had!!!! Proud of you! Just keep sharing!