JAM SESSIONS

Even though I collect recipes, recipe boxes and cookbooks—and at first glance it might seem there isn’t any rhyme or reason to what I am collecting – there actually is a method to my madness. For instance, all of the canning/pickling/jam & jelly making/chutney cookbooks are in a single bookcase in Bob’s room. There is an old fashioned extra long recipe box decorated with a Pennsylvania Dutch design also in that bookcase – because it contains all the jam and jelly and chutney and pickle recipes that are on 3×5” cards, collected over a period of about 45 years. But in addition, there is a larger recipe tin, one that Gooseberry Patch sold a few years ago (it has a retro look) – and all of the recipe cards that are oversize are in that box. But wait—I’m not through; in the garage library are all of my three ring binders filled with recipes. There is one for chutneys, another for jellies and jams, several for pickle recipes. These are the 8 ½ x 11” recipes clipped from magazines where I wanted to save the entire article.

Before we moved to the high desert in 2008 we lived in a house in Arleta, in the San Fernando Valley, that boasted a yard with twenty something fruit trees, not including nut (walnut and macadamia) and a Concord grape arbor. We lived there for almost 20 years and made every effort to can/pickle/dehydrate or convert into jams and jellies, butters and spreads—all the harvest our trees produced.

Our new home has grape vines and we have planted 4 fruit trees so far. It may be a few years before I can drag out all of the quart jars again. Meantime, I rely heavily on anyone we know, or anyone my son and daughter in law know, who have fruit trees and more fruit than they know what to do with. It delights me no end that one of their friends has a lot of pomegranate trees. Now, here’s something you may or may not know about pomegranates. They are a pain in the behind to peel and retrieve all the little ruby bits of fruit. I think I have finally found a pretty good way to do it—something I saw on Google: you cut a big X in the top of the fruit, and then, holding it underwater in a big bowl, begin removing the peel and letting the beautiful fruit fall to the bottom. When I have enough of the fruit, I put it into large Zip lock bags and begin mashing it with my hands or a rolling pin….over and over until I have a lot of juice. Strain and pour into jars (We have a collection of one gallon pickle jars that I get out when I am making juice to make jelly/jam.

The ‘jack pot’ to converting the fruit to juice is making pomegranate jelly. Everybody loves it. My friends and their children all ask for it. We have also made pomegranate liqueur which, after it has aged for about ten years (if you can keep it that long) becomes like a fine brandy. I love to make liqueurs. We save up all the small glass bottles we can find, soak off the labels and have them ready for liqueurs ready to be bottled.

Another plus to living in the high desert is being near the Bing cherry trees –and cherry liqueur is another great gift to have on hand to give to friends for the holidays. One of the directions said to discard the fruit after aging it in vodka for a few months. Discard it? Not a chance. I have the now-almost-dried cherries in our second refrigerator and have used some of it in fruitcakes. One year, experimenting, I made a chocolate cherry Bundt cake with the cherries. Once the cherries have dried out from months of soaking in vodka, the seeds are pretty easy to remove.

When I was still employed full-time, I had a ready-made fan base in the department where I worked so I could give everyone a jar of jelly or jam at Christmas and still have a lot leftover for family and friends.
Well, I’m retired now so the recipients of our jellies and jams are my manicurist, the mail carrier, family and friends.

When did I start making jellies or jams? I’m not sure although I do remember (and so does my son Chris) that in the beginning I used baby food jars to put the jelly or jam into, and then sealed it with melted paraffin. It’s been years since I’ve done anything like that – we graduated to 8 ounce jelly jars that come with rings and lids and the finished product creates a vacuum seal when it cools (and lasts much longer than jam in a baby food jar).

We had enough fruit trees in Arleta to experiment with recipes and for about 15 years, we entered my jellies, jams, pickles, relishes and other good things into the Los Angeles County Fair. We had two fig trees; I made pickled figs and fig/almond relish, brandied figs and mock strawberry jam made with – finely chopped figs.

Well, you get the picture. I often thought maybe I was a squirrel in a former life; whenever the fruit on our trees began to ripen, I began to search through my recipes to see what I could make next.

Some of my most popular recipes weren’t made with the fruit from our yard – everyone loved a chocolate-raspberry spread I began making and I’d get a lot of requests for it.

Here, then, is the recipe for Chocolate Raspberry Spread. To make this recipe you will need:

5 cups prepared fruit (about 4 pints fully ripe red raspberries)
7 cups sugar
1 box fruit pectin (I prefer Ball low sugar pectin)
5 squares unsweetened chocolate
½ tsp butter or margarine

First, prepare your jelly jars. Wash the jars in hot, soapy water then place them in a large pot. Fill with water and bring to a boil. Wash the lids and rings. Put the lids into a saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Let simmer over a low flame to keep the lids hot.

Crush berries thoroughly, one cup at a time. Sieve ½ of the pulp to remove some seeds, if desired. Measure 5 cups into a 6 or 8 quart saucepan.

Measure sugar into a separate bowl. Stir fruit pectin into fruit in saucepan. Add chocolate and margarine. Bring mixture to full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Quickly stir in all sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with a metal spoon. Ladle quickly into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8” of the tops. Wipe jar rims and threads with a damp cloth. Cover with two piece lids. Screw bands tightly.

At this point, you can give the jars of chocolate raspberry spread a boiling water bath for 5 minutes—or if the jars were still very hot when you took them out of the water, and filled almost immediately after, they should produce a seal without the boiling water bath. You will hear a slight “ping” from each jar as it produces a vacuum. Spread sets slowly; allow about a week. Makes about 9 one-cup jars. Your friends will love you for this one!

This next recipe was originally called Triple Berry Jam; I renamed it Hunka Hunka Berry Jam. To make Hunka Hunka Berry Jam you will need:

5 cups prepared fruit (about 3 pints fully ripe strawberries, 1 ½ pints fully ripe red raspberries and 2 pints fully ripe blackberries (or any combination to make 5 cups – whatever is available or on sale).
7 cups sugar
1 box fruit pectin (My first choice is Ball Low Sugar Pectin
½ tsp butter or margarine

Stem and thoroughly crush strawberries one layer at a time. Measure 2½ cups into a 6 or 8 quart saucepan. Crush raspberries and blackberries, one layer at a time. Measure 2 ½ cups berries into the pot. Prepare jars and rings as instructed in directions for chocolate raspberry spread.

Measure sugar into a separate bowl. Stir pectin into the fruit in the saucepan. Add butter or margarine Place over high heat; bring to a full rolling boil stirring constantly. Immediately stir in all sugar. Bring to a full boil and boil 1 minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat, skim off any foam. Ladle quickly into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8” of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads with a damp cloth. Cover with two piece lids. Screw bands tightly. At this point, you can give the jars of jam a boiling water bath for 5 minutes—or if the jars were still very hot when you took them out of the water, and filled almost immediately after, they should produce a seal without the boiling water bath. You will hear a slight “ping” from each jar as it produces a vacuum. Makes about 8 one cup jars.

Note: when you use Ball low-sugar powdered pectin, you CAN reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe; you won’t get as great a yield but the jam will have a much fruitier taste. When I am using the low sugar pectin, I usually use about 4 cups of sugar for this recipe. Also note, the sealed jars of jelly/jam do not need to be refrigerated until you open them. THEN you need to keep the opened jar in the frig.

CANDY APPLE JELLY

You can make this any time of the year because it uses a commercial apple juice. Friends always loved this jelly too. To make Candy Apple jelly you will need

7 cups apple juice
1 cup red cinnamon candies (red hots)
8 cups sugar
1 box fruit pectin
½ tsp butter or margarine

Measure apple juice and cinnamon candies into a 6 or 8 quart saucepan. Prepare jars and rings/lids as directed in first recip. Keep lids hot until ready to fill jars. Measure sugar into separate bowl. Stir fruit pectin into fruit juice in saucepot. Add butter or margarine. Bring mix to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Quickly stir in all sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with a metal spoon. Ladle quickly into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8” of the tops. Wipe jar rims and threads with a damp cloth. Cover with 2 piece lids. Screw bands tightly. If using boiling water bath, boil 5 minutes. Otherwise, let cool and check seals after the jelly has cooled.

TO MAKE POMEGRANATE JELLY you will need
4 cups fresh pomegranate juice*
¼ tsp butter
1 tsp lemon juice
1 package low sugar powdered pectin
2 cups sugar

Mix together pomegranate juice, lemon juice, the powdered pectin and the butter in a large pot. Bring to a boil. When boiling, add sugar all at once. Return to a boil. Pour into prepared jelly jars and seal with two piece lids. Let cool.

*Nowadays you can buy very good pomegranate juice. If you don’t have access to fresh pomegranates, you might want to make the jelly using something like POM pomegranate juice. I have also made jelly with some of the combination juices like cranberry and pomegranate juice. It all works!

GRAMMY’S CHRISTMAS JAMMY

This is something I made up one year. To make Grammy’s Christmas Jammy you will need

1 package dried cherries or dried cranberries
1 package dried mixed fruit, diced
4 apples, peeled, cored and diced
3-4 fresh ripe pears, peeled and diced
2 cups apple juice
2 cups cranberry juice (or pomegranate juice)
Fresh or frozen blackberries, strawberries, raspberries (I think I used about 2 cups each fruit)

Mix together all fruits. Measure 4 cups fruit per batch and use one package low sugar pectin per batch. Add 1-2 cups of sugar per batch, depending on how sweet you want it to be. Follow previous directions.

DUTCH APPLE PIE JAM

4 CUPS prepared fruit (Granny Smith apples) ½ cup raisins and 1 ¼ cups water
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice
4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 box powdered fruit pectin
½ tsp butter or margarine

Peel and core apples; grind or finely chop fruit Add raisins and water. Measure 4 cups into a 6 or 8 quart saucepan. Stir in lemon juice, cinnamon and allspice. Have jars prepared and lids in boiling water; keep the lids hot until ready to use.

Measure sugars into separate bowls. Stir fruit pectin into fruit in saucepot. Add butter or margarine. Bring mix to a full rolling boil o high heat, stirring constantly. Quickly stir in all sugars. Return to full rolling boil and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; skim off any foam. Ladle quickly into prepared jars seal with two piece lids. Either give the jars a 5 minute boiling water bath or let cool once they are sealed.

(If your jars are hot and the flat lids have been kept in hot water, and the mixture is hot, you should get a proper seal. The purpose of putting the lids into hot water and boiling them is to get the sealant material on the inside of the lid to soften, so that when you put the jam or jelly into a jar, and seal it, you will get a firm seal. You won’t get a proper seal if the lids haven’t been in hot/boiling water long enough).

Any jars that do not seal properly should be refrigerated and used promptly. Properly sealed jellies and jams will keep for many months in a cool dark space.)

Tips for jelly & jam making – buy canning jars at yard sales or flea markets; you can use either 8 ounces or pint jars. Make sure there are no cracks or chips in the jars. If you have enough 8 ounce canning jars, all you will need to buy are the lids and rings.

Look for fruit that is on sale; you can prep the fruit by removing stems, rinsing berries off and then dicing or slicing…you can pack it into plastic freezer bags or plastic containers and freeze it until you are ready to make jelly or jam. Mid summer temperatures of over 100 degrees isn’t the best time to start making jelly.

TO MAKE POMEGRANATE LIQUEUR YOU WILL NEED:

2 CUPS pomegranate juice
2 cups sugar
2 cups vodka (you don’t need an expensive vodka for this recipe. Just buy what ever is on sale).

Mix it all together, pour into a large jar and store it in a cool dark place (a pantry if you have one). Every so often give the jar a good shake to make the sugar dissolve. This needs to age 3 to 6 months before rebottling it into small bottles to give as gifts.

Happy Cooking & Happy Cookbook Collecting!
Sandy

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5 responses to “JAM SESSIONS

  1. i am tthinking me and the kids willl try making some jams and jellies soon. :)

    • Hi, Steph, do you need any pointers about what equipment to have on hand? Where you live, it might be possible to find a lot of canning supplies because more people DO can in the south and midwest than a lot of other parts of the country. (They might be more available at yard sales too).

      Jellies and jams are a good way to start canning–back in the day I used to worry about botulism but you can only get botulism from low acid foods that arent canned properly. So I stuck with high acid and heavily sweetened jellies and jams. I can send you an older edition of a Ball cookbooklet, if you like. (I dont have a new one). What kind of fruits can you get from friends and neighbors? Thats a good start.
      A few weeks ago Chris called to ask me some questions about making jam because a friend of his had a lot of strawberries – he recited over the phone everything he remembered us doing. Your kids will learn a lot from the lesson … start simple with something like small batches of a berry jam. AND, – I was just telling Chris this – you can get a lot of instructions for jelly and jam making inside the box of powdered pectin – each box comes with a fold-out leaflet. Get the Ball brand low sugar powdered pectin. it’s the best.

      love, AS

  2. Excellent article and easy to understand explanation. How do I go about getting permission to post part of the article in my upcoming news letter? Giving proper credit to you the author and link to the site would not be a problem.

  3. Nancy Williams

    Hey, Sandy,
    Would love to know your favored uses for the apple pie concoction. I’m thinking thin triangular walnut bread with cream cheese tea sandwiches???

  4. Oh, that triangular walnut bread with cream cheese sounds wonderful. I have been saving a slew of tea bread recipes & your suggestion for the apple pie concoction would taste great on any of them, I think. (*let me see if I can copy a few to send to you. There was a pecan bread recipe that especially caught my eye). The apple pie filling is excellent in an apple pie–one of the things I like to do when I am making an apple pie using the apple pie filling…is to add a couple of “fresh” apples. I haven’t thought about apple pie filling in a while–we did so much canning from the vegetable produce in my son Kelly’s garden last year–I was hard pressed to keep up. He had the biggest crop of CHERRY tomatoes–I went over every other day or so and picked all the ripe ones–I cooked and strained the tomatoes every time I had enough to work with–and refrigerated the pulp or sauce, what ever you want to call it – in gallon jars until I knew I had enough to fill the canner (takes 8 quarts). O-M-G – I didn’t think we’d ever get through with all of them – when Kelly said he had had enough–I said let me pick all the green ones and try one of my green tomato pickles. And THAT filled a canner. Here’s hoping the zucchini he planted doesn’t take over the garden. :) – Sandy

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