Friday, September 2, 2011

Summer Kitchen...

Shannon and I spent our last Wednesday afternoon together in Santa Cruz making jam.  We walked from her house on Elm Street to the downtown farmers market to find apricots as I had hoped to make a batch of apricot rosemary jam.  I need to improve my knowledge of the fruit seasons- there were no apricots there at all!
We settled for peaches and tasted and tasted before finally choosing several pounds of beautiful Snow Queens.  
We made two flavors of jam with our peaches:  Peach Camomile, and Peach Earl Grey.  
Recently at work, Kendra had told us all about jam.  I had grown up making jam in the summer from the fruit trees in our neighborhood using liquid or powdered pectin.  I knew nothing about the science of canning.  It came as a huge surprise to me when she told us that you don't need pectin in jam at all!  With the right ingredients, and proper cooking method, the pectin in the fruit is enough to gel preserves.  The following ratio can be adapted to any fruit, and, as in our flavored peach jams, you can add anything else either steeped in the water, like tea, or put it straight into the jar!

Peach Chamomile Jam
makes approximately 4 8oz. jars
1 lb. (~ 4c.) Snow Queen Peaches
1 lb.  (~2c.)granulated organic sugar
1/4 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 c. strong chamomile tea

Steep your chamomile in hot water.  You'll want a stronger brew than you would normally drink, as the flavor will be dispersed through the entire batch of jam.

Prepare a large pot of water to boil.  You will need this for the last step.  If you haven't got a large enough pot, don't sweat, just skip the water all together.

Clean your jars and lids thoroughly, then place them in a cool oven.  Turn the temperature to 350* after the jars are inside.  If you put cold glass in a hot oven, you risk cracking your jars.  Alternatively, if you have a really big pot, skip the oven and put the jars in the water and boil them.

Chop the fruit and, if it suits you, remove the peel.  (I like the skin, personally but it varies from person to person.)

Combine all the ingredients in a pot on the stovetop with the flame high.  Use the widest mouth pot you own- the more surface area you have, the faster your jam will cook and set.

Keep the stove on high and continue to stir as the fruit becomes mushy and semi-translucent.

It's helpful to have an extra set of hands at this point to get your jars lined up and ready to fill.

When the fruit starts to look jammy and coats the back of your spoon with a thick layer, skim the foam off the top (you can save this in the fridge for a yummy fruit sauce), then ladle the jam into the jars leaving half an inch of room before the top of the jar. (It's helpful to have a canning funnel here, but not imperative.)  Place the lids on loosely as you go.  If they are too tight, the heat vacuum can break your jar.

Place the jars into the pot of boiling water and let them sit for 10 minute.  If you couldn't find an appropriate pot, put the jars back in the oven again.

With tongs, remove the jars and allow them to cool at room temperature.

Depending on your jars, you might hear popping sounds as the heat vacuum seals the lids.  I like to use Weck Jars as their aesthetic suits me, but since they have glass lids, there's no popping sound.

The above recipe can be modified for any fruit, flavor or batch size.  Save your jars and reuse them again and again. All you'll have to do is buy more sealing rings.  
Et voila!