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We Be Jammin’

2012 July 11

Small batch jammin’. Strawberry jammin’.

My New Years’ resolutions (yes, I am taking about New Years’ Resolutions in July. Isn’t this why you write them down?) are more like an ambitious to-do list than pie-in-the-sky self-improvement BS I’m not actually going to accomplish. This year, that ambitious to-do list includes a few culinary resolutions, including cook my way through the Cooking for Two, 2011 (working on it!), find a dill pickle recipe Mr. Kitchenette likes (he is rather picky about his pickles; so far no dice) and make a jam and can it (so here we are).

I grew up in a more freezer-oriented family than an canning one, though canning is something that has always fascinated but terrified me, because OH EM GEE you could kill someone. But that was before I discovered the amazing Marisa of Food in Jars.

In addition to making canning seem more accessible and fun than scary and dangerous, she also has an occasional series on small-batch canning called Urban Preserving that fits right in with The Kitchenette’s wheelhouse, accounting for a small kitchen with limited space and maybe even two people who don’t necessarily need 12 jars of the same flavor of jam (Marisa gets it, since she also has a wee kitchen where big things happen). Plus she dreams up interesting flavor combinations you won’t find in the grocery store, like Italian plum and star anise or apricots and rosemary.

So I’ve spent about a year reading her blog without actually canning a single thing. But looking at a pile of strawberries I bruised and smooshed on the walk home from Eastern Market, I knew the time had come to cross that jam resolution item off my list. From all my canning blog lurking, it seems like strawberry jam is the standard-issue gateway jam/canning experience, so, you know, hello bandwagon.

The whole thing was surprisingly easy — just like any recipe, a lot of canning is just about following directions. Meticulously clean all your supplies, macerate your fruit and spices with sugar, wait patiently for the right temperature and consistency, get it in the jars and wait patiently again for the water bath seal.

The tension of putting the jars into the bath, wondering if they would actually seal properly and then waiting a few days to open up first one for the final payoff was almost as delicious as the jam itself.

We cracked open the first jar for eating (since the first jar I literally cracked was one that was accidentally smashed on the floor, jam and all. Spaz.) over the Fourth of July holiday while my brother was in town for a little patriotic revelry (see, J.?  blogworthy after all…!). We ate it with warm biscuits and all I can say is that you have to try this — bright, berry flavors that taste like midsummer should. I will be so excited to open that final half-pint jar some cold and dark morning in the middle of January for a little taste of summer.

I hope you be jammin’ too.

 

Marisa’s Small Batch Strawberry Vanilla Jam

from Food in Jars

makes 1 1/2 pints

Ingredients

1 quart strawberries (a little over 1 1/2 pounds, should be approximately 4 cups of chopped berries)

2 cups sugar, divided

2 vanilla beans, split and scraped

1 lemon, zested and juiced

Method

Wash and chop berries. Toss them with 1 cup of sugar and the vanilla beans/seeds and place in a large jar or bowl.

Allow the berries to macerate for at least 2-3 hours and up to 72 hours.

When you’re ready to make the jam, prepare three half pint jars.

Pour macerated strawberries into a large pot and add the remaining cup of sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer until the jam reaches 220 degrees. Add the lemon zest and juice in the final 5 minutes of cooking.

Once the jam has reached 220 degrees, remove the pan from the heat.

Pour jam into your prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in your canner for 10 minutes. When time is up, remove jars from canner and let them cool on a towel-lined counter top.

When jars are cool enough to handle, remove rings and check seals. If any jars are not sealed, store them in the fridge and use them first. Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place.

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